The death of Satoru Iwata on July 11, 2015, hit me much harder than I imagined the death of an individual I had never met ever possibly could. As someone who grew up playing the games he worked on, upon hearing of his death it felt like somebody had ripped out my heart and punched me in the gut. He was the first person outside my immediate family whose death made me cry. It was an odd feeling. I never considered the impact that man had on my life until I heard of his passing. Yes, I had never met him. He wasn’t my friend or a member of my family. Some would argue video games aren’t even important. Yet, upon hearing of his passing all those brilliant memories he had given me came rushing back to me. That is because video games have had a monumental impact on my life, and as a result, the work of Satoru Iwata and the games he created have helped mould me into the person I am today.
When I originally started writing this I was unsure of what I wanted to say. It’s difficult for me to eulogise a person I didn’t know. I don’t know what he liked and disliked. I don’t know what he was like to work with or work for. I can’t say anything personal about the man. I can only tell you how he made me feel through his creations. From Mother to Kirby, from Smash Bros. to Pokemon, the franchises he worked with or helped create will forever remain in my memory. I may not think of Iwata on a daily basis, but I know that when my time is up if I ever have the opportunity to reflect back on my own life and the things which gave me joy, my memories of the games he created will be amongst those joyous moments.
When he died I watched his keynote presentation from the Game Developers Conference in 2005. His famous heart of a gamer speech. It is a moment which has become synonymous with Iwata, and if you haven’t watched it yourself then please, do so.
What he said about the industry in 2005 is still eerily relevant today. Even more so, in some ways, than it was fifteen years ago. You may not be a fan of his games, but there’s no denying the passion he had for the industry. He felt pride when he saw people enjoying the games he created. He wanted everyone to share that passion. The Wii and Nintendo DS were great examples of this. His vision wasn’t always correct. The direction Nintendo took with the Wii U proved that, sometimes, he was off the mark. But that passion never dwindled. Even in his last public appearances, he was still evidently happy with what he was trying to accomplish. Because, as he said in 2005; “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.”
Five years have passed, and many more to follow, but Iwata’s impact on the industry will never be forgotten.