Celebrating Mr. Iwata – How Nintendo Made My Broken Childhood Awesome

The Birth of a Gamer

I’m sure I’m not the only one among my gaming brethren that grew up in a broken home. In fact, I don’t have any memory of my biological parents being together. They divorced when I was 3 years old, and as far as my little brother and I were concerned, this was how life was and we didn’t feel any different from any of the other kids whose parents were still together.

However, as biological needs grew, both of our parents expressed interest in dating other people. My parents seeing other people didn’t bother me as much as the anxiety of having to deal with a rapidly changing family dynamic, but seeing my dad occasionally seemed to help, especially when we began visiting the local arcade on Sunday afternoons.

Even after exposure to killer arcade titles such as Black Tiger and Chase HQ, I wasn’t fully converted to video games until my brother and I got a package from our grandmother in Hawaii for Christmas 1988. What was it, you ask?

nesactionset

Oh, shit…

When we got this boxed set of awesomeness, no one knew what it was or what it did! Carefully prying open the box and fishing out the instruction manual, we fumbled around with the RF cable, plugged in the ginormous power supply, carefully inserted the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge and slowly pressed the Power button.

supermarioduckhunt

Yup! I was hooked!

What ensued afterwards cemented my place in this amazing new hobby! After sending an AWESOME Thank You card to my amazing (and still favorite, even in death) grandmother, my mom would feed our new hobby by occasionally renting us games for our new console! Titles that crossed our paths during this time include The Legend of Zelda, Gun.Smoke and Super Mario Bros 2 & 3. Mom was even saintly enough to put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on layaway to bolster my then meager collection!

The NES remained at her house as we didn’t have a way to safely transport it between there and my dad’s place, but in the end, that really didn’t bother me. The NES served as my great escape when I became fed up with having to “be nice” to my mother’s shithead (and sometimes felonious) boyfriends or dealing with my ever-growing and clingy little brother. All I had to do to get rid of all that unbearable anxiety was hit the Power button on my trusty NES, and I’d be propelled into a magical world THOUSANDS of miles away!

I had truly discovered the magic of video games at this time. Yeah, going to the arcade was fun, but if I didn’t have a quarter to spare and I wanted to play a game, having a console in the house filled that void well beyond anything I could ever imagine. This impressionable part of my life provided me an oasis where I could be myself and escape from all the pressures of the outside world.

Enter Iwata

About a year later, my mom rented us Adventures of Lolo. Looking carefully at the art on the front, I noted it was from a company called HAL Laboratory. Even back then, I was starting to develop a taste for certain developers, notably Ultra and Konami (who turned out to be the same people). Not having heard of them, the art looked promising and I eagerly anticipated what to expect once I got home.

Lolo

This just looked quirky and amazing!

Developed by HAL Laboratory and released by HAL America in 1989, Adventures of Lolo turned out to be a puzzle game, which I had not been exposed to previously. Successfully solving each puzzle required me to look at the stage objectively and move carefully, lest I’m forced to kill myself and retry after getting hopelessly stuck. As blown away as I was with this amazing title, I never got the chance to own it, but it did let me know how vast the ocean of gaming really was. You could truly do ANYTHING! 

STILL awesome to this day!

Seeing as I was just a punk kid, I had no idea who Satoru Iwata was, nor the vast impact he would have on my life to follow. As I got older, I began doing odd jobs in order to make money to rent/buy more games, which included:

  • Adventures of Lolo 2 & 3
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Balloon Fight

Years later,  I would finally realize the true gravity and depth of Mr. Iwata’s contribution to gaming. Some of the franchises he helped program, produce or received special thanks for include:

  • Earthbound
  • Super Smash Bros.
  • Pokemon

From his humble programming days to his recent seat as President and CEO of Nintendo, Iwata carried his passion for gaming throughout his expansive career and everywhere he went. His playful approach and deep appreciation for gaming was evident in everything he did, from his Iwata Asks to Nintendo’s 2015 Digital Event. Though CEOs are typically thought of as unfeeling, money-grubbing shysters here in the States, it seemed that Iwata not only broke this trope, but shattered it into a million pieces!

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#Salute

Even though I totally missed the boat with Earthbound, Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon, I began thinking about other gamers in the world (the Internet hadn’t quite blown up back then) who enjoyed these franchises and the sheer amount of joy they felt while playing them. I felt the same fluttery feeling when I played Balloon Fight and Adventures of Lolo!

What I Learned

So what impact did Iwata have on me? Simple. He taught me that imagination can become reality, as long as you are brave enough to see it through. Many of the concepts he introduced into the North American market were innovative and ballsy (for lack of a better word), especially in a reluctant market that was still recovering from the video game crash of 1983.

Iwata also challenged me to look at video games in a different way. Instead of seeing them as flashy graphics and music, I began viewing them as insanely rich and fulfilling audiovisual experiences. This isn’t simply popping in a movie and absorbing its static contents; this is becoming part of the action!

Iwata also taught me the importance of never forgetting and being proud of who you are at your absolute core. Even though I’ve only recently come to terms with who I am, Iwata was never afraid to be himself, regardless of which seat he was sitting in. Where others who ascend to a position of power radically take a turn for the worst, Iwata remained a wide-eyed child who didn’t forget what wonderment felt like.

As for me, these are approaches to life that I aspired to, even in the throes of chaos. One of my step parents attempted to strangle me when I was 8, and another almost drove me to the brink of suicide by constantly cutting me down. The verbal and sometimes physical assaults would continue until I was kicked out of both houses when I was 18, just shy of 2 months from my high school graduation.

So how did I survive these harrowing incidents as they were happening? Easy. I’d smile, hit the Reset button, and it’s all thanks to good people like Iwata, who showed me how to stay young at heart.

Lumpz the Clown OUT!

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