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Goodbye, Mr Iwata, and Thank You

VICE Gaming contributor Chris Schilling pens a touching tribute to late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.

by Chris Schilling
14 July 2015, 9:08am

Satoru Iwata flanked by two of Nintendo's most-loved characters (screencap via US Gamer)

This piece marking the death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, which VICE Gaming reported yesterday, originally appeared on the author's personal blog, Rudderless, and is reprinted with permission. Thank you, Chris. And thank you, Iwata-san.

Wii U hasn't enjoyed the same success, of course. But it's a part of that same ethos. It's a reaction to a very real concern about the second screen disrupting our time together – the idea that it separates us, rather than bringing us closer together. The thought process behind Wii U was to create new forms of entertainment that would include the second screen: to make it an integral part of play. Nintendo couldn't find enough uses for that idea. But that doesn't mean it wasn't valid. If Wii U was a failure, it's one that was conceived with all good intentions.

I've listened to a great many things Iwata has said over the years, and read a great many words he's written. He is pragmatic when needs must, but ultimately he is an idealist. Think about Wii Fit, the upcoming Quality of Life initiative, the aborted Vitality Sensor. These ideas are all concerned with making us all better, healthier people. Even Wii Music, a toy conceived to foster a greater appreciation for the joy of composition and performance, among those without the necessary musical talent to realise that simple pleasure. It was considered a flop, but I love it – as much for what it represents as what it is.

And what it represents, along with those other games, and with Wii Sports and its ilk, is a mission statement that stretches beyond this medium. Iwata's Nintendo didn't merely want to make great games; it wanted to make the world a better place. Games just happened to be the delivery method. I may not entirely agree with Iwata's insistence that fun should be the only goal for games as a medium. I am delighted, however, that it is Nintendo's goal, because that is what Iwata's Nintendo has always been brilliant at.

Iwata's passing leaves an unfillable hole. Like any death of a significant public figure, we're left feeling as if something is missing, as if the world is somehow a little darker than before. This sensation is particularly keenly felt for a man who has, for many of us in recent years, come to feel like a friend or relative who occasionally comes to visit, often bearing wonderful gifts. Nintendo Direct is a marketing tool, sure, but Iwata's presence has always made it feel like a special treat. Through his charming, avuncular nature, his wonderful sense of humour, his readiness to poke fun at his own persona, he has become a source of great warmth and delight in many of our lives.

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As I tweeted earlier, part of the reason Iwata's death hurts so much is because we have come to associate him with feelings of happiness and joy. And so the contrast now seems particularly stark, and hard to bear. I know I will miss him in forthcoming Nintendo Directs. I will miss the comforting constant that is his name on the end credits of every first-party game: a personification of the famous Seal of Quality. I will miss all those laughs from the incomparable Iwata Asks interviews.

But I'm sure this hopeful man, this idealist, this optimist would not want us to feel sad for long. After all, for many years he has been in the business of putting smiles on faces. And I'm sure for many years more he and his games will continue to do the same.


Pay Chris's blog a visit and find him on Twitter, here.

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