“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” – Satoru Iwata
The Wii was the first videogame console I ever saved up to buy for myself. I was fourteen, uncomfortable in every way imaginable inside my own body and self. Yet I’d seen this magical white machine work literal miracles before my very eyes—so I didn’t care how many brats I had to babysit before I could get my hands on one.
At a birthday party, I watched this mystical machinery transform a room full of horrible, awkward, self-hating teenagers into bright eyed children again. And not just any kids; kids who laughed with each other instead of at each other; kids who felt silly, and also felt okay about it; kids whose spirits remained untarnished by the ugliness of the world they’d soon come to know better. From voice-cracking band geek to theater girl nerd (the cool kids couldn’t make it to the party, but I’m sure they would’ve been playing too), our souls were lifted by the kind of unadulterated joy only play can inspire.
— Alejandro Argandona (@Toshi_TNE) July 13, 2015
— Squidkid Hanyuu ??:? (@JVKIllustration) July 13, 2015
Then, someone pressed the green button at the bottom of the magical white machine. And the joy evaporated as soon as the screen went black.
You can only appreciate the impact of a human life after it’s gone, the old saying goes. Once a person has passed, you finally allow yourself to feel the effects of their presence on your life, whether good or bad. For Nintendo’s beloved and recently departed fourth president, Satoru Iwata, the consensus seems unanimous. From preteen Nintendo fan to award-winning game studio Simogo, millions took to social media to thank Iwata for the countless memories he made possible.
Even if you’ve only played a single Nintendo game since 2003, you probably still owe Satoru Iwata some gratitude for transporting you back to a time when everything—from houses to emotions—felt closer, brighter, bigger. During a period when other gaming companies were pushing to define the next generation of consoles with exclusive content, insider gadgets, and price spikes, Iwata steered S.S. Nintendo in the complete opposite direction. Instead of exploiting a niche audience for its every last dime, Nintendo made an affordable, state-of-the-art play machine that even a monkey could learn to play.
“It’s impossible to imagine the world of videogames without him,” the Simogo (creators of Device 6 and The Sailor’s Dream) blog reads, “and it’s safe to say that this company would not exist, or create the things we create if it weren’t for Mr. Iwata’s work and legacy.” And though many have tried to work through their grief over Iwata’s premature passing through stirring words, Simogo believes “words only go as far.” So, the game developers decided to express their gratitude by giving back exactly what Iwata gave us: joy.
Simple, yet seemingly endless, the joy of play is for everyone. Iwata understood that, and the games he inspires only unfold more and more of play’s infinite possibilities. In Simogo’s tribute, simply entitled Thank You, a happy blue creature stands across from a pair of red balloons. You can bounce across the screen as this creature, between a castle and a field of wacky flowers. Without instruction, you do what comes most naturally: play and jump madly.
Suddenly, the balloons are in your grasp. Before you even know what happened, you realize you’re still hovering in the air from your last jump. An impish impulse takes over you as you mash the up button, hopping higher and higher into the clouds. As you reach the sky—the earth long since disappeared beneath you—the little blue creature does not stop. The camera remains fixed on the passing clouds, while the blue creature soars ever onward, returning to the world of joy and endless possibilities awaiting him off-screen. “Thank you, Satoru Iwata,” reads the text that appears over the final shot.