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Remembering Satoru Iwata

bagogames / Flickr / Creative Commons

A few weeks ago, I heard the bad news that Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, had passed away.

Iwata was interested in games from a young age, developing them on a calculator in high school. He later attended the Tokyo Institute of Technology to study computer science and formed a club with several of his friends to create games. This club eventually became HAL Laboratory, the company behind the Kirby and Smash Brothers game series.

With Iwata running HAL Laboratory, the company developed a close relationship with Nintendo. In fact, even before he was ever working there, Iwata helped with projects at Nintendo. When the sequel to the original Pokemon game was being programmed, the developers were having a hard time fitting the entire game world onto the limited space afforded by a Game Boy cartridge. Iwata volunteered to come in and help, and developed compression tools that not only let them fit what they needed, but in fact doubled the size of the game.

Iwata was the most public president Nintendo has ever had, periodically recording interviews between him and other Nintendo employees in a series called “Iwata Asks.” He also hosted a series called “Nintendo Direct,” where he would present information about upcoming Nintendo games and events. During these, you could often see Iwata’s unique sense of humor, like the time he held a bunch of bananas in his outstretched arm, staring at them silently for several moments before turning to the camera, ostensibly to drop hints about a new Donkey Kong game.

Iwata became ill late last year, and had to miss his scheduled appearance at the E3 conference. He seemed to have recovered for a time, but suddenly fell ill again last month before he died from complications with cancer.

Immediately, memorials sprouted up around the world, including the Nintendo World store in New York City. 4,400 people attended his two-day funeral in Kyoto, and countless more were there in spirit to mourn him. I was too. Please understand.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.