I am not normally the type to get worked up about the deaths of celebrities, but the one-two punch of Chris Squire followed less than two weeks later by Satoru Iwata feels like more than I can handle. I never met either man, though I definitely stood inside Iwata’s aura once; nevertheless, both of them created things that moved me profoundly.
My connection to Iwata actually goes back further than to Squire, even though I knew who Squire was much earlier in life… rock stars, you know, they get praised and lionized. For video game makers, especially those from Japan, that sort of recognition took a lot longer to come around. But before I ever considered exploring the sounds inside my mother’s green monolithic gatefold of Close to the Edge, I played and loved Balloon Fight. Nodded my head to the Balloon Trip music, too.
I don’t really have much to add to my thoughts about Iwata beyond what I wrote today, and what Bob wrote, and what Mike wrote. Iwata was a tremendous talent and, by all accounts, as kind and good-humored a man as his video presence would suggest. Talent, humility, and leadership skills all in a single package — that’s a rare thing.
The one good thing to come from all of this has been seeing such a tremendous outpouring of sentiment and sincerity from every corner of the web. Anyone who says video games can’t affect people like true art needs to spend a few hours sifting through the artwork, video tributes, and written testimonials that have popped up over the past 24 hours to commemorate the life of a man who ran a company 5,000-plus miles away in a foreign nation and a foreign culture. You are beautiful people, expressing beautiful thoughts.
Playing together has always been a driving, motive force behind the design of Nintendo’s games, something Iwata advocated for time and again. Seeing so clearly the fact that the games he created could, indeed, bring so many strangers together in unison: Surely this is the greatest and most fitting tribute imaginable to both his career and his life.