As the creator of Nintendo’s Pokémon series, Satoshi Tajiri is one of the most important (if not well-known) developers working in video games today.
Like another Nintendo legend, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Tajiri’s most popular work has been directly inspired by his childhood experiences and hobbies. While Miyamoto’s Zelda was the product of boyhood explorations, however, Tajiri’s role-playing juggernaut is the product of, as you may expect, boyhood insect collections.
Tajiri grew up in Machida, a city that now forms part of the sprawling metropolis that is greater Tokyo. As a boy in the 1960s and 1970s, though, it had a quaint, almost rural atmosphere, which led Tajiri to a hobby of collecting local bugs and insects.
He was so mad for it, in fact, that his classmates would call him “Mr. Bug”, and as a child he wanted to grow up to be an entomologist (someone who studies insects). As happens when kids get older, though, interests come and go, and by the time he was a teenager Tajiri’s focus had shifted from harvesting bugs to pumping coins into arcade games like Space Invaders.
So keen on gaming had he become that Tajiri began to cut high school classes to go play games (so much so he nearly failed to graduate from high school), and when he eventually bought a Famicom in the early 80's, took the thing completely apart to see how it worked so he could make his own games.
Tajiri (pictured, left) isn’t as well-known as one would expect given the popularity of his creation. Nintendo representatives explained a few years ago that, while Tajiri is incredibly creative, he is also described by them as “reclusive” and “eccentric”.
This means that, unlike most other famous game developers, Tajiri never went to college or university. Instead, he studied electronics at a Tokyo technical college, and in 1981 started up a little video game fanzine called Game Freak. While little more than a few pages of writing crudely printed and stapled together, the zine was distributed enough to catch the attention of additional contributors, including, most crucially for Taijiri’s future success, a young man by the name of Ken Sugimori.