Thank you, Mr. Iwata.
Thank you, Mr. Iwata. I don’t think there’s really a better way to open this story. Article? Remembrance? Well, whatever this is. I’ve struggled to write this for about a week now. For various reasons. Simply put, there will be hundreds of better written, better thought out, and definitely more important “whatever this is” pieces out there on the internet. From important video game industry folks to important and/or well-known internet personalities. I’m none of these things. Maybe one day I will be (a girl can dream!!), but it’s highly unlikely. I wondered all week if whatever I’m about to say is even relevant. More than likely I’m going to be regurgitating everything that has already or will be said, just with me putting my name on it (remember, my name means nothing). So I struggled. Will what I say matter? Will I have anything different and memorable to say? What do I even HAVE to say about this unhappy ending? In the end, I started to realize, that like so much of what I do, it doesn’t matter, and that, gentle reader(s), is why it DOES matter.
As many of the people who really know me are aware, Nintendo is a huge part of who I am. I grew up with Nintendo. Nintendo, for better or worse, helped shape me as to who I am today. You could argue the “worse” branch is the one to focus on, but, who is to really say if that’s the case until it’s all over? Nintendo is in my blood, as a child all the way until now. It still is. Yes, I am supremely critical of what Nintendo does as a business. I have been for almost a decade now. It’s because of my love for the company, it’s values, and what they have given me (and the absurd amounts of cash I have given them) for over 30 years that I feel I have earned that privilege. Right or wrong, it’s just how I feel. I don’t like where they’ve taken themselves as a company. I feel like they’ve strangled their brand, and it’s still bleeding out, gasping for air, hoping for that one last arm to reach out and save it. Who knows if they have that in them? I’m not an expert, so I can’t say. I can only respond to what I see, and it’s not looking good. The rumors about the NX don’t come across to me as a savior, they’re more like nail in the coffin. Again, time will tell, and if I’m able, you’ll still see me there on day one, as always, because despite the anger, the sadness, and the frustration Nintendo puts me through, they still also do one thing: they sometimes make me happy. And, really, what more can you honestly ask for? Well, to make me happy more often, I guess, but, beggars can’t be choosers, it seems. I didn’t want this “whatever this is” to be a public thrashing in the streets, but, I feel like it needed to be brought up, so I promise (don’t hold me to it, I’m horrible at keeping them) this is the last negative thing I’ll say on the matter at hand.
Mr. Iwata. What is there to say that hasn’t been said before? Damned if I know. You were a legend in your field. Shit, you were a legend in many fields, because you represented a lot. You cared about the video game business. You saw something in it at a time when it wasn’t generally accepted to be chasing that dream. You famously talked about how your father basically disowned you for a time, simply because you chose to follow that dream he didn’t approve of. It worked out, of course, and I’m sure there are plenty of people – myself included – who wish they had the heart, and dare I say, balls to do what you did. Not only did you do it, but you succeeded to just about the highest level possible. You earned the respect of not only the people close to you, but millions (possibly even billions?) of people across the world. I can’t imagine anyone not giving you that respect. Disagree with your methods, sure, but I don’t believe anyone could say with a straight face you don’t have or deserve their respect. Your history doesn’t make it possible. And damn, what a history it is.
If you look at his game catalog, and you can easily do that, the internet age is upon us, just Bing it (I went there), I would venture to say that something this great man has touched has somehow touched you. If by some crazy set of circumstances you haven’t had the pleasure of playing a game he’s worked on, you’ve definitely heard of at least one. One being extremely forgiving on that scale. The man had his hand or DNA somehow in so much over his long career. Mario, Kirby, Animal Crossing, Zelda, Pokémon, Metroid, I could really go on and on, but I think it’d be nice for you to pull up his history and see for yourself. It truly was a varied and vast history.
The earliest memory I have of an Iwata game was NES Open Tournament Golf. Now, I came into this one not of my own volition, but, I can’t say it was necessarily a bad way. When I was younger, my grandparents lived in a different state that I did, so we would go see them on weekends from time to time, and me, being the young fanatic that I was, would bring my NES to hook up and play on their TV in the basement. Well, I have a lot of uncles, so they’d usually end up taking over the TV and NES while I would just watch. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just how it ended up. This practice didn’t end with the NES, this also happened with the SNES as well, but, eventually, one of my uncles got his own NES and SNES, so they’d hog all the TV time with his systems. Anyway, back on track, one of said uncles got me this game for either my birthday or Christmas one year. Now, as a kid, I was super into basketball. I still am. Golf, never registered on my radar. It still doesn’t (unless it’s a quirky video game!!). Being a kid, I don’t remember really how I played it off, but I do remember other details about the situation (and for the record, as a kid, I’d often got plenty of garbage games as gifts, mostly on NES and Game Boy, since once the SNES came out, I was much older and could make my voice heard louder). I barely touched it while at my grandparents’ house. It consumed my uncles. Now, if you’re paying attention, you’re probably at the conclusion I came to then as well: they got the game for themselves under the guise of a gift for me. Fair play to them, I’m sure I’ve done the same since. I guess they taught me well!! I also don’t really remember minding. I was young. I was just really happy I got to hang out with “the big kids” and watch them play games. It clearly made them happy, and in turn, it made me happy. A feeling I’d chase well into adulthood with them when I’d get to play poker with everyone. That’s sadly not something we do anymore, but that’s a story for my therapist, not here. And see, that’s the thing. It made us happy. That’s what video games do. That’s what Nintendo DOES. I still look back on those times and feel good about it. Maybe I wasn’t as vocal then with everything, kids are kids after all, but I know how it turned out and how I feel about it. Good times all around.
One other story I’ll share, because I could go on for days and I don’t want to make this any crazier than it needs to be, is with Pokémon Gold & Silver. I remember getting this in high school when it came out (yes, I got in on Pokémon from the jump and the sequels came out when I was a senior in high school – I told you, I’m old). No one was really into Red & Blue when I was playing those, and no one was really into Pokémon until these dropped, at least in my area. If they were, they didn’t bring it up. Any who, we’d bring our GameBoy Colors into school and play them on the bus, in Study class, lunch, or even Accounting or Entrepreneurialship class (I can’t remember which one was senior year, they were both taught by the same teacher). And for the younger viewers, this was back when you could only battle and trade by using a link cable, which was a short cord that had to be connected to both systems. God forbid the cord came loose while trading. Bye bye starter egg (or whatever you were trading). You kids don’t know how hard we had it. UP HILL. BOTH WAYS. IN THE SNOW. IN JULY. But the biggest shocker was when you finally beat the game, you opened up the whole region Kanto from the first games, ready to be explored and gym badges to be won all over again. All the way up to facing off against your character from the first game. It was insane and remarkable for the time. How something so big and innovative could fit on that little memory chip. Well, guess what, kids? Mr. Iwata was the one whole literally made that happen. Were it not for him busting out his programming skills last-minute to help the team out, the game would have ended right after the normal end game. He came in and made it possible to crunch the game down to be able to fit both huge regions into the game. No small feat, especially at the time. When this was discovered by me, I couldn’t believe it. The game was already worth it, but now it was like you had just eaten your dinner, and your dessert, and once you were done, your mom gave you the spoons to lick clean as an extra treat. It was unheard of at the time and not something that is done enough today in my opinion.
Now, if you’ve made it this far, you may be able to tell that my writing style (hell, my mental state more likely) is such that I don’t really prepare what I’m going to say before I say it. I just get a topic and I go. Again, for better or worse. I tend to ramble, for far too long and my initial point seems to get lost along the way. Call it a quirk, call it a mistake, call it whatever you want, it’s just how I do things. I kind of like it. If I were to continue to bring up memories, this would never end and the main point would probably never be accomplished. I’d branch out so many ways it’d never end. This is supposed to be a thank you to a great man in gaming. I’m not sure I conveyed that well. Again, I’m not so sure that really matters. The beginning sets it up, and the end reiterates the point. The stuff that happens in the middle? Well, it’s ultimately just stuff. My stuff. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can’t. But the beginning, and especially the end, that’s the important part.
You’ve meant a lot to me. You’ve helped create things that have guided me, helped me, made me forget the banal existence I lead, for literally my entire life. Sure, lately I haven’t trumpeted the love as loudly, because I’m human, and we tend to forget the important stuff in the moment to moment, and it takes bullshit like this to help us remember. When I saw the news alert pop up on my iPad last Sunday night, I blurted out “holy fucking shit…” and had to stop what I was doing (nothing important, mind you). I couldn’t believe it. I tried to explain to my girlfriend the significance of the news when she got concerned at my reaction, but it’s not an easy thing to do when her passions and mine don’t sync up. Not her fault, that’s just reality. When she went up to shower, I don’t mind saying I cried. I continued to cry for the next week when tributes and other such things would pour onto the internet. I’m just an emotional person. It’s what I do. You had missed the last couple of E3 shows due to illness, sure, but I don’t think anyone who wasn’t close to you really knew how bad it had become. You always seemed to bounce back. You were a relatively young guy, and we saw you fight Reggie in Smash Bros. You were going to keep bouncing back. Unfortunately, this time, you couldn’t. And that sucks. It sucks for the many obvious reasons. It sucks because you were always a smiling face that was hard to not imitate when you were on-screen. It sucks because we won’t get to “ASK” you anymore questions or see anymore things “DIRECTLY” from you. And it really sucks we possibly won’t get to see where you were potentially going to take Nintendo in the coming years. The whole thing just really sucks.
I’m going to miss you. The games industry is going to miss you. The world is going to miss you. You were a treasure that I believe many of us didn’t truly understand how valuable you were until it was too late. I don’t think there will be another person like you, and if there is, I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to be around to see it. I’m just grateful I got to see and experience what you gave to us. It will always be in my heart.
You asshole… WHY DID YOU HAVE TO LEAVE US SO SUDDENLY?!?! ::sigh:: See? I told you I was bad at keeping promises.
THANK YOU, MR. IWATA.