Too close, too soon

A YouTube commenter reminded me of a throwaway blurb I spliced into my Game Boy World review of Golf last fall — it flashes on-screen for about a second in the middle of the video. I had totally forgotten all about it until he mentioned it:


My first reaction was mild panic and an impulse to delete it as quickly as possible. After waiting and giving it some thought, though, I changed my mind. It was an innocent quip posted in a time when no one could have imagined how short Iwata’s life would be… and, more critically, it turned out to be entirely too accurate. The image above appeared as a small protest of just how difficult it is to dig up concrete information on the creation of what was surely a million-selling game on the 20th century’s best-selling game platform by the oldest and most established video game company in the world. This is not some obscure corner of the medium, it was a pretty big release for its time. Yet there is no firm information online about who, precisely, developed Golf for Game Boy; I attempted to triangulate based on related data on Intelligent Systems’ site and other Nintendo-developed golf games of the 8-bit era, but what I came up with still amounted to little more than conjecture.

“Who cares about Game Boy Golf?” you might ask. Well, I do. It’s a really well-made portable game, especially for 1989, and it feels like an evolution of the revolutionary Golf for NES. I’m pretty sure some well-known or otherwise influential people worked on it… but it’s impossible to say for certain, because the game has no credits and no one’s claimed involvement with it (at least not based on my research, which was pretty extensive). Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Will the world come crashing to an end because the Golf team didn’t get an in-game credit? Not really… but it still matters.

Iwata’s death was a tragedy on multiple levels, but this just reminded me of how much unshared, first-hand knowledge we lost when he passed. The heritage and history of games has become that much poorer as a result.