“My mind went white and even now the reality hasn’t sunk in.” wrote Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai, recalling when he heard the news that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had passed away.

In his column in this week’s Weekly Famitsu, Sakurai wrote of his impressions of the man. Iwata had been one of the interviewers when Sakurai had applied for a job at his former workplace at HAL Laboratory Inc. Wrote Sakurai, “Our positions and locations changed throughout our long association. He was the best superior I ever had and a man who understood me better than anyone.”

In his column, Sakurai described Iwata in the following five ways:

He was a man of virtue. Where a normal person would get annoyed or angry, he would never show such emotions and would instead analyze, organize, and offer ideas. He was someone who could bow his head and apologize for things that weren’t his fault. I often worried about his stress levels, but he always talked with a smile.

He had a brilliant mind. Even when people would talk at length or without focus he was able to quickly say, “so, what you’re trying to say is...” and quickly summarize their point. He was able to see to the heart of people and things and was a master of simplifying them so that anyone could understand their point. He could immediately make a call on changes to improve. I have no doubt that many people were saved by this quality.

He was a man of effort. Even though he didn’t start out in the managing field, he read numerous management books, he would ask for advice from the necessary people that he would take to heart, and managed to become the president of Nintendo. What he gained from his years as a programmer allowed him to take many long-term projects to successful fruition.

He was open and generous. Things like his Iwata Asks, and Nintendo Direct weren’t things that necessarily required the president of Nintendo to stand at the front and do. There was always the risk of frivolous criticism. And yet, by being the spokesperson, I believe he showed the importance of properly conveying a message to his audience.

He was empathetic. After he became the president of Nintendo, he would write emails to all employees to communicate and as hard as it was, took a stance to try to treat everyone as equals. He would often ask third parties to see how people were doing. As an individual, he had no self-righteous qualities.

As for his last memories of the Iwata, Sakurai wrote, “It was this past January. I had dinner with Mr. Iwata at a Tokyo hotel and then drove him to Narita International Airport for a business trip to Seattle. He was still very healthy after his surgery and happily said, ‘I’ve recovered enough that I can eat this much meat!’ During the drive, we talked and laughed about many things.”

Sakurai noted that ever since he left Nintendo and struck out on his own, much of his subsequent work for the company had been supported by the mutual respect he shared with Iwata, and now that Iwata was no longer there, he was unsure of what would happen now.

The gaming world lost a great man this month, and gamers and developers are poorer for it.


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