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July 13, 2015

Thank You, Mr. Iwata

They say that when big news drops, whatever you were doing gets frozen in time -- like there’s a snapshot that’ll always be a reminder of where you were when it happened.  In my case?  I had just plopped down in front of my computer after some unfortunate business involving a dog, a bathroom, and a fair bit of wiping.

Had I known what had happened, or what I was about to read, I would have dropped everything beforehand to say a prayer, or light a candle, or something.  But I didn’t.  Now I know what happened, and just how big of a loss we’ve suffered.

So.  I guess I’d better make up for it, huh?

I actually didn’t believe it at first.  I just happened to catch a glimpse of it on Reddit’s front page, and figured someone was joking around.  But it’s true: Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata, is no longer with us.  He lost the fight against a tumor on his bile duct -- which he’s had several rounds with in the past few years.  It’s incredibly saddening news, and saying “rest in peace” doesn’t even feel close to being enough.

Honestly, I’m surprised by my reaction.  I mean, obviously, I never knew him personally.  And despite my regular chants of #GoodGuyNintendo here, it’s not as if I’ve been a lifelong Nintendo diehard.  There’s a pretty strong argument to be made that I’m just riding the coattails of a trend -- a counterculture against the ailments of the modern-day games industry.  Maybe on some level, I’m only shaken because there’s a deep, dark part of me that’s wondering “What does this mean for Nintendo?”  Or “What does this mean for the Wii U?”  Or most likely, “What does this mean for me and my games?”

But then again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

No, I didn’t know him personally.  I knew him as the president of a company who only showed up on my radar via news posts, online broadcasts, or meme-spawning gifs and videos.  I’ve only started to learn what sort of contributions he’s made to the industry, besides being in a seat of power.  Apparently, he was a part of HAL Laboratories back in the day; he had a background in games; he’d actually worked on stuff like Kirby and Earthbound.  What would Nintendo or the gaming climate be like without him?  I don’t know.  I don’t want to know.

I don’t have all the facts, and I doubt anyone will ever know just how much he did for the industry; I’d bet that there are some details behind closed doors that we’d never even consider could exist.  But for now?  Maybe we don’t need to know.  Maybe we already know enough.  And yeah, maybe I’m projecting here, but you know what I think?  I think that even those that only know him through stuff on the internet already have an intimate, passionate connection with the man -- because in a lot of ways, he stopped simply being a man.

This guy put in work for Nintendo, whether he toiled in the salt mines or sat in the throne.  Setting aside the facts that he notoriously cut his salary in half after a bad year, openly apologized for his company’s failings, and staunchly refused to bow to outside pressure (and cave to the expected “standards” of the modern industry), he was a person who believed in ideas and ideals.  And he helped others live by them -- helped others work to make them a reality, which helped those so far-removed from headquarters understand what could be done, if not what should be done.

I can’t divorce Mr. Iwata from Nintendo, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.  I look at that company, and I see a bringer of quality.  Trust.  Passion.  Intelligence.  Wonder.  Freedom.  And above all else, joy.  I believe that, at least on some level, its late president had a hand in all of it -- however direct, however indirect.  He may have run a business and pushed products onto store shelves, but I genuinely believe that he didn’t just want to sell a bunch of discs and hunks of plastic and call it a day.  He believed in selling the people happiness.

And now he’s gone.  But what he stood for -- through ideas, words, and actions -- will live on.  The world may have gotten a little darker with his passing, but it won’t stay that way forever.  Not as long as we remember what he stood for:

"In my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."

And so are we. 

Farewell, Mr. Iwata.  Thanks for everything.  And don’t worry -- because we’ll do our best to make you happy, wherever you are.  Just as you have for us.

Gamers, stand strong.  His story isn't done yet -- because now, it's ours.

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