From now until the start of the new year we're going to be republishing some of what we feel are our best features of 2015. Hopefully this will offer the chance for newer readers to catch up on content they might have missed and allow long-time fans to reacquaint themselves with features they enjoyed the first time around. Today, it's Thomas Whitehead's touching tribute to Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who tragically passed away in July following a long illness.


It's been a difficult day for plenty of Nintendo fans, gamers, developers, publishers and anyone who knew of Satoru Iwata's work or were lucky enough to know him personally. The announcement of his passing over the weekend came as a shock, especially as the last 12 months had been among his most vibrant and forward-thinking in his 13 years as Nintendo President. The company is on the cusp of a significant 2016, and that's been driven by his leadership.

We're planning an article in which our team members share some of their favourite memories or thoughts on Iwata-san, but due to time zones and the logistics of a global writing group that will require a little longer. Until then, I know I speak for everyone associated with the site and the Nintendo Life Directors when I say that Satoru Iwata will be sadly missed and never forgotten.

Iwata Direct

I've already written our obituary for Satoru Iwata, and this is my personal reaction ahead of the staff's contributions to come. It's been a tough day to write anything, in truth, and that's because Satoru Iwata was more in my eyes than an executive of a gaming company - he was a representation of what I want from gaming. Irreverence, humour, fun and a commitment to breaking down gaming boundaries. Satoru Iwata embodied a less cynical world, in which the term 'gamer' can mean absolutely anyone capable of waving their arms or tapping buttons. Nintendo - under Iwata-san's leadership - made gaming less lonely, which mattered a great deal to me.

Despite the sadness at this news, it's important to truly recognise, acknowledge and treasure just what made Satoru Iwata so unique; the humour he brought into the world. This is an executive of a multi-billion dollar company that was happy to express his playful side, to be silly, and to truly embody the playful approach of Nintendo rather than just say it was a mission statement. When Satoru Iwata said that fun was the priority in Nintendo's games, he proved it.

A smile comes to my face when I consider the wit and charm of the man, and all of the in-jokes and references that he brought us. The 'Directly' gesture is simple but iconic, his "who's your Daddy" line directed at Reggie Fils-Aime in 2005, any number of bizarrely brilliant Nintendo Direct moments, and the memorable recent Super Smash Bros. segment from Nintendo's Digital Event at E3 2014.

There are more wonderful moments, of course. The Luigi Bros. skit with Shigeru Miyamoto, that pose with the bunch of bananas, or indeed the pleasure of reading any Iwata Asks interview and all their (laughs). Here was an executive that put frivolity above decorum, who was unashamed of a drive to promote fun in gaming.

I've also seen first hand how Satoru Iwata's determination to make gaming accessible to everyone has succeeded. Within my family myself and my brother - thirty-something gamers - will gear up with my parents for multiplayer shenanigans in Nintendo Land. The DS onwards was a true revelation in my family, with both generations experiencing what Nintendo's brand of gaming can bring. If there's a LEGO, Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing game, for example, my mother's likely to know more about it than me, while I've had some seriously competitive Wii Sports Resort golf rounds with my father.

Iwata Iconic

Over the past four years or so of actively writing on this site I've agreed, disagreed and been on the fence many times with Nintendo's policies - for all the times I've been thrilled by a major company decision, there's likely an occasion when I've scratched my head or been critical. Yet what was always there under Satoru Iwata's leadership was an intention and philosophy that I loved. Frankly, if it weren't for the Satoru Iwata era at the helm of Nintendo, I would never have remained a passionate gamer who spends his days writing about his hobby.

For me, Nintendo under Iwata-san's leadership has been a strong force for good in the gaming industry. There are many wonderful game developers and publishers, and Nintendo's hardware manufacturing rivals contribute vital balance to the industry, but gaming needs Nintendo. It makes games unlike any other company, steeped in identity, personality and creativity. Nintendo's flair and devotion to quality is a testament to Satoru Iwata - not everything goes to plan, but it's not for the want of trying.

The next year is going to now be difficult as well as exciting. We'll see Satoru Iwata's vision for the next phase of the company take shape, through the DeNA partnership and smart device games to NX and Quality of Life. Satoru Iwata's imprint will be all over those projects, and my hope is that they'll shine and remind us all of his devotion, commitment and dedication to the world's finest video game company.

I know I'm not alone when I say that there's a palpable, painful sense of loss at Iwata-san's passing. Before the DS and Wii my love affair with gaming was starting to wane, and the colour and joy of those systems acted as a spark that renewed my passion for the medium. When I say I believe in Nintendo and what it stands for, I really mean that I believe in Satoru Iwata and what he stood for.

Iwata-san was more than a corporate executive. His place in my heart is alongside writers, artists and musicians that have shaped my outlook on the world and fired my creative passions. He was a creator, a visionary and an idealist. He was a gamer.

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.