Hiroshi Ono, better known as “Mr. Dotman,” passed away on October 16. The news was announced by his official Twitter account. According to Automaton, Ono had been hospitalized for autoimmune hepatitis. He was 64 years old.
Ono joined Namco in 1979, just as the company was entering a golden era in arcade games. While at Namco, he created some of gaming’s most iconic sprites. As Video Game Densetsu points out, Japanese games didn’t use to have staff credit rolls, so much of his most famous work was uncredited at the time. However, he worked as a graphic designer on the following games: Dig Dug, Xevious, Pac-Man, Galaga, Mappy, Pole Position, and many more. Besides drawing sprites, he also designed arcade game cabinets and marquees.
At Namco, his skills for creating sprites were quickly recognized. When Galaga creator Shigeru Yokoyama was asked about the game’s sprites, he previously said, “They were actually drawn by Hiroshi Ono, a designer who, from Galaga onwards, became famous for drawing these kind of sprites. He became known as ‘Mr. Dotman,’ an authority on pixel design, but these characters were the first he made.”
Last year, Kotaku reported last year some of Mr. Dotman’s original art was stolen last year. Japanese retro game researcher Zek put out an all points bulletin for people to be on the lookout for the art surfacing on internet auction sites.
Ono would work at Namco even after it merged with Bandai. In 2013, he left the company and went freelance.
Mr. Dotman is the subject of a documentary about his work and his health battle. The crowd-funded project has already been fully funded, raising over $42,000.
Hiroshi Ono helped define an era of gaming with brilliant art and designs. If you love video games, no doubt you’ve come across his iconic and influential work over the years.
May he rest in peace.