There’s nothing wrong with gaming alone. Some of my favourite gaming memories stem from the joy of being alone exploring RPG’s that featured cutting edge graphics and elaborate plots alongside countless side-quests, all of which combined to form an excellent experience from start to finish about a month later. There’s nothing wrong with ultra-violent shooty-stabby games either. Indeed, I’m more than partial to singlehandedly butchering entire armies in Dynasty Warriors, having shootouts in an online FPS, or logging in for a quick rampage in Grand Theft Auto.
The thing is, these games are involved experiences - yes, Dynasty Warriors is an involved experience. The very concept of controlling a character via two analogue sticks, and then pressing one of four face buttons, and one of four shoulder buttons to have them interact with their respective world is tricky. Sure, if you have played many games then you will find many control layouts are fairly standardised across genres, but to the uninitiated it’s like learning another language. I have given racing games to family members, and witnessed otherwise good drivers woefully attempt to control the virtual car with a stick and trigger, engendering a myriad of complaints centering upon how badly the game controls. Similarly, first person games where the concept of using one stick for the camera and another for movement is so alien that they have no hope of engaging with any gameplay challenges competently, no matter how extensive the tutorial is. Modern games are involved, and because of members of my family, like many others globally, don’t get video games. They don't make sense out of the box.
Whilst Sony focused on powerful handheld and home consoles, as did Microsoft with regards to the latter, designed to appease an audience eager for more of the same traditional gaming experiences, Mr Iwata took over control of Nintendo following the Gamecube’s disappointing performance. He had a simple motto - Games should be fun for the entire family.
'Please Understand, I am not saying that technology is unimportant. I understand that technology is important. But if we are just focusing on technology and investing in an IT manufacturing plant to come up with higher performance processing [chips], we will not succeed.'
Under his Presidency, the DS and Wii were unleashed upon a gaming public convinced it didn’t need the gimmick of motion and touch controls combined with limited processing power. It’s a stupid gimmick for ‘casuals’, decreed those who self-anointed themselves as ‘hardcore’ gamers, and many called upon Nintendo to give up on their hardware and to instead become a third party developer. What such critics doggedly refused to acknowledge though, was that these platforms paved the way for completely new experiences that simultaneously made gaming accessible to everyone; a staggering accomplishment.
On the DS, games such as the New Super Mario Bros and Advanced Wars provided challenge to those looking for more traditional experiences, utilising the tried and tested face button and d-pad combination. But the addition of a stylus and touchpad revolutionised handheld gaming from an esoteric device for youngsters into an easily understood machine for the elderly and others typically uninterested in gaming. With a concept - writing and tapping - already firmly established in their minds, games such as Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training became a welcome addition to the leisure time of many, whilst the mini-games in ‘New Super Mario Bros became something my grandparents were happy spending time with me playing. Whereas video games had always been something my family were happy to let me have to keep me out of trouble, they were now a hobby they could also be engaged with. For the first time in my life, I could share games and my family wanted to play games.
I've never once been embarrassed that children have supported Nintendo. I'm proud of it. That's because children judge products based on instinct. Everyone wants to appeal to people's instincts, but it's not easy. That doesn't mean we're making products just for children. We believe that there's interactive entertainment that people in their 60s, 70s and 80s can enjoy, so we're doing various things.
Even more impressively, the Nintendo Wii became a household staple across the world thanks to its Motion Controls, which were hastily imitated by rival consoles. Wii Sports should be regarded as the undisputed king of launch titles, which within my household remained used for years after the purchase of our Wii. From the moment anybody boots the game the experience is utterly intuitive, perfectly embodying Nintendo’s core principle: ‘We didn't want any member of the family to feel left out, either through not understanding the Wii or feeling it had nothing to do with them.’<Iwata Asks: Fun for the Entire Family> Bowling, Golf, Tennis, Boxing, and Baseball are activities understood by all, and swinging, rolling, or jabbing was made easy and buttonless with the Wii remote. Whereas once I had only gamed amongst my social peers or alone, family occasions were made far more enjoyable thanks to Mr Iwata’s brainchild. As with the DS, being able to watch a grandparent effortlessly interact with gaming technology, take a perfect golf shot, and to then whoop and cheer in celebration of their swing constituted my favourite gaming memory, one that cannot be recreated due to father time, but which is safely locked within my brain. Without the goals of Mr Iwata at the helm of Nintendo, without his pure and noble ambition, I would never have had that.
Busy then awaiting the next GTA, the next turn-based strategy game, the next good Final Fantasy, I, like another 101 million and 154 million others respectively, had no idea that I needed the Wii or the DS so badly, had no idea that these fresh systems would triumphantly embed themselves within my thoughts, and account for so much fun. Plain, simple, engaging, family fun.
Mr Iwata, please understand, you have my eternal thanks.
Satoru Iwata, 1959-2015