Daily Reaction: Remembering Our Giants – The Loss of Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata

Yesterday, the games industry lost Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s CEO and president. His loss is something that cannot be overstated, as his influence on the current market is almost immeasurable. Besides discussing how Iwata has influenced our lives personally, the Daily Reaction crew also looks at where we currently are, and how lucky we are to still have so many of the founding members of the industry still with us.

Dan: Last night when I heard about the passing of Iwata, much like everyone else, I felt an immediate sadness wash over me. While my time on a Nintendo platform has been almost non-existent over the last few years, I had been trying to catch back up and see what I have been missing. Not because of work, but simply because Nintendo was a major part of my younger years and I wanted to revisit some of my roots. So, when I heard the news, I immediately realized that we had lost someone who had not only touched countless lives, but was also a significant influence on our industry.

Besides his work on many other influential titles, his work on the Super Smash Bros. franchise will always be the hallmark I will remember him by. Not because it is my favorite Nintendo franchise, but because it kicked off a new style of development for Nintendo that they have been embracing over the last decade. Looking at the launch of the DS and the Wii, Iwata was able to push development outside of what many of us considered realistic for a major publisher, and show that the industry can step outside of the box and become profitable.

Looking past all of the grief and sadness, Iwata’s passing has also left us with a reminder that we are still very young as an industry, and that we were lucky enough to watch one of industry’s giants at work. We are surrounded by numerous people shaping the future of our little world everyday, but we spend so much of that time complaining and nagging about trivial things that many of us fail to appreciate just how lucky we are.

If we look at just about every other major form of media, they have roots that lead to names that are little more than marks in history, as many of us were not around to fully comprehend what they really did. Whether it was Mozart or even more contemporary musical influences such as The Beatles or Elvis, they came during a time before many of us were around, even though we are still reaping from what they had to offer the world. The exact same can be said for the film industry, with Alfred Hitchcock, George Melies, Walt Disney, or Orson Welles, who helped shape modern film during a time when most of us weren’t around.

But, the thing is, is that we are around now to watch our industries first steps being taken, and while we have already gotten off the ground, we are still far from hitting our full stride. So, while we all should be sad for the loss of someone so special to many of us, we should also take this moment to realize that we are sitting in the golden age of our industry, and try not to take it for granted quite so much.

Iwata Nintendo

Chandler: First of all, I refuse to believe that Walt Disney is dead. They have his head cryogenically frozen in a jar, and if you’ve seen either Fringe or Futurama, then we know that there’s plenty of hope to see Mr. Disney again. All kidding aside, you are right, Dan. These individuals are the ones that set the cornerstones and foundations of their respective industries, and the games industry is a fledgeling one that hasn’t been around long enough to see it lose a lot of its greats yet. Compared to music and film, video games are still very much in their infancy, or at least coming into their terrible twos…

The loss of Satoru Iwata at such a relatively young age got me thinking about the other industry giants and the fragility of life. It’s not something I want to think about, but one day — hopefully far, far in the future — we’ll be reading these same types of articles for figures like Shuhei Yoshida, Hideo Kojima, Shigeru Miyamoto, and many others that have touched our lives with the incredible work they have done in a medium that we and they are so passionate about. Already as I grow older, I’m starting to see legends and icons that I took for granted in other media pass away, whether of old age or through tragic events.

A lot of the people who make games happen may not have as much of a public face as a high profile actor or musician, but it doesn’t make the work that they do any less special or impactful. Take a moment to consider each item on this list. Pokemon. Earthbound. Wii. DS. Mario. The Legend of Zelda. Animal Crossing. Super Smash Bros. Melee. Even if you didn’t know who Iwata-san was at the time, if any of these impacted you, he brought a little bit of gaming to your life.

I know when I was a kid playing Pokemon Gold I didn’t care about who had helped with the game. I don’t think my wife originally based her purchase of a DS or Animal Crossing off of Satoru Iwata’s involvement. But he still held a part in these things that brought us immense amounts of joy and evolved much of who we were and are as gamers. He was at the head of a company that doesn’t need a seat at the grown-ups table, because Nintendo unleashed the kid inside all of us. Iwata was all about fun, joy, wonder, and a sense of gaming as simple entertainment and he wore the Nintendo mantle proudly through all of his incredibly dedicated hard work with them.  

I look now at the vast library of games, consoles, and peripherals that have brought me countless hours of entertainment and realize that my life has been touched by a huge number of people that I tend to take for granted. We look on our industry and see that most of our favorite people are still there. Life is a fragile thing though, and we won’t have them forever. We’ll have our Robin Williams. Our Michael Jacksons. Our John Lennons. We’ll look back on their legacy, what they did for the industry, the joy that they brought us, and perhaps most importantly, how they helped move and shape the growth of something we’re so passionate about. But today? Let’s enjoy the fact that they are still with us, crafting that legacy they will leave behind.

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