Last Generation Gamer: Satoru Iwata 1959-2015

Last weekend Nintendo President Satoru Iwata was laid to rest. His death was a very large news story because Nintendo is one of the giants in the video game industry. There are some great features on who Satoru Inwata was, and why he is so important (my favorite piece came from Kotaku). His career, his accomplishments, and his love of video games (check out his interviews with Nintendo employees ) makes his passing one of great loss to everyone who has loved video games.

Thinking of Satoru Iwata and what he has meant to my life long love of video games makes me appreciate how influential he was not only to me, but also to my child. I am old enough to have played and enjoy an Atari 2600. It was my third favorite thing, Star Wars was number one followed by Superman comics. When I first saw the Nintendo Entertainment System, video games became my second favorite thing, still behind Star Wars. Once I entered college, the scholars I associated with were die hard Sega devotees. Nintendo fell by the wayside and I started to get interested in more modern games. The Sony Playstation was the future of my gaming life.

In the first part of the 21st century Nintendo did something different. They learned that the kids who grew up with the NES were now adults who had young children. These adults were not going to let their kids play Grand Theft Auto or Halo (even if those adults still played those games). In came the Nintendo DS, mobile gaming's father (the Gameboy is the great great grandfather). The DS had touch controls, over internet multiplayer, and incredible games. The adults who played the original Mario Kart could now play Mario Kart DS, anywhere. I had a pink DS Lite (it was a Christmas gift and I was too lazy to return it for a different color). I was working as a lobbyist and would spend a lot of time waiting for meetings in government offices. Brain Age, Animal Crossing, and of course Mario Kart were always with me and my trusty pink DS in the halls of power. 

In the spring of 2007 I was leaving a public hearing in Dayton Ohio and decided to make a stop at the local Best Buy to check out some of the goods. When I was looking at Playstation 2 games I saw a cart with four Nintendo Wiis sitting in the aisle. Suddenly I was a kid on Christmas morning, I was so excited. In less than ten minutes all of those Wiis were gone, one in my hand. I raced home and played Wii sports until after midnight with my wife. It was the second happiest day of our marriage up to that point. Shortly after we acquired our Wii, my wife and I had downloaded Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid from the virtual console. Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Smash Bros: Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy 2 were soon added to our gaming library.

In 2010 my son was born. In 2013 my small family moved out of our city condo into a suburban home. While we were unpacking I decided to hook up the Wii to play some Mario Kart. Within a few months my young son was regularly winning races against his mother and me. His love for Mario Kart (Peach and Luigi were his racers) was immediate. We, I mean Santa, got him a 2DS for Christmas (the kid is young, I do not need the 3D messing his eyes up). Mario Kart 7 was the first game to be loaded into the system. A few months ago we gave him a Wii U and Mario Kart 8, plus a Luigi Amiibo. The kid uses the Wii U not only to play Mario Kart, but he is getting into the old Wii games. The other day he wanted to play Super Mario Bros, the one from the NES.

This is why Satoru Iwata's passing hit me. He is the man who steered Nintendo during the early part of the 21st century. He brought me back to Nintendo. He is the face behind the DS, Wii, and Wii U. He is the man who ran the company with not all the good games, Nintendo had the best games. Mario Galaxy 2 is far and away the best video game I have ever played. Mario Kart has no equal in the racing game genre. Any Zelda game can go toe to toe with Final Fantasy. Super Smash Brothers can never be beat down by the Mortal Kombats or Tekkens of the time.  Satoru Iwata was a game maker and a game player. The gamer press has always wanted to knock Nintendo for being a kid company, and for many years they were right. Satoru Iwata took Nintendo's reputation, and used it to build a gaming environment that my young son, my wife, and myself will participate in.

Rest in peace Satoru Iwata. Your love for the industry, and your connection to my life will be missed. The legacy you left will assure Nintendo in this home. Thank you.

RD Kulik

RD is the creator of Seed Sing. He loves video games, but is not very good at them. Come write for Seed Sing.