As I stood staring at all the outpourings of love, respect and condolences to Satoru Iwata at his Memorial at Nintendo World a couple of weeks ago, there was no other response I could give than to shed a few tears.
Nintendo World sits at the corner near Rockefeller Plaza. The glass windows of the Two-Floored building cannot be missed as they are often decorated with colourful displays featuring all of Nintendo’s well-known franchises, rotated every few weeks and months to advertise whatever upcoming and new game Nintendo wants in our hands.
The store itself sells both childhood and recent memories by branding them on t-shirts. Or stuffing those memories into pieces of cloth shaped to bring the 2D enemies, heroes and friends from our screens as 3D things to cuddle.
Nintendo World is a marketing ploy. On the first floor, that’s plainly obvious. Nintendo is a business, after all.
It’s when you get to the second floor that you realize things are a little bit different.
Yes, there’s a play area to try all the latest and greatest in Nintendo made titles for home consoles, and right next to it is the strategically placed wall of Wii U games and peripherals for sale. The Pokémon Center is in the middle and greets you with all the Pokémon in funny costumes or as miniature collectible plastic versions of themselves. But as you head towards a corner close to the windows, there’s a showing of Nintendo pride.
Portions of the company’s history stands behind some glass cases. These displays change every so often, featuring the gaming histories of some of its most beloved series. For the past few months, it’s been all about the Legend of Zelda, no doubt in part to celebrate the release of Majora’s Mask 3DS earlier in March. There’s also their handheld history. All the versions of the DS that have been released. Special editions of those systems. Gameboys. Whatever you can think of, it’s there. It’s a mini-museum. It’s Nintendo’s heritage and a piece of gaming cultural heritage.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of NYC with NBC’s The Today Show right outside its doors, and despite the endless pieces of merchandise Nintendo World tries to peddle—the place feels special. It’s a strange house. One that’s bright. One that’s inviting. One that takes familiar ideas and never lets you forget how much fun life could be. That’s what special about Nintendo as a whole. They’re a reminder that games really can be for everyone.
The usual curiosity and excitement walking through those doors of Nintendo World that day wasn’t there. At least not for me.
There was a makeshift fan memorial for Mr. Iwata sitting quietly in a corner near one of the windows on the first floor. The space, which is nothing more than a ledge that people usually sit on, had an atmosphere surrounding it which was as heavy as I made it to be—no doubt a reflection of my own sadness at the loss, and the feelings brought by gamers from all over the world who had laid pieces of their lives on a nondescript section of the store.
On this ledge were bits of clay art, drawings, letters, figures, bananas, a Ness amiibo... all paying tribute and celebrating the games that Mr. Iwata helped create which in turn helped shape the face of Nintendo. Rare trinkets from people’s personal collections. Their own creativity in art which they used as a way to give back to the creations that he gave them. It was touching... and I searched my pockets for something to return as thanks, too.
I had forgotten I had a Pokémon card in my wallet. One I liked if only due to its shininess and the zorua on it which I collected as part of a McDonald’s Happy Meal once. But I only discovered that I had it on my way home later that day. I never got to leave the card, or anything on the Fan Memorial, actually, other than a little peaceful word of thanks, a tear and a goodbye.
Nintendo World did have a more formal affair set up, however. It was a table with his photo on the middle and three open books—a place for fans to sign and leave personal messages to Mr. Iwata. I wondered how many books they had already filled. How many hundreds or thousands of messages were left in their pages. I didn’t look at anyone’s other than my friend’s, and at her consent. I could only imagine they were all very personal even though they probably all shared the same sentiment. When it came to my turn, I left my own truth and personal history with Nintendo and video games in those pages, too.
Whatever your feelings on Nintendo, there’s no denying they’ve paved the way for games and our culture in no small measure with Mr. Iwata’s astute mind and giant heart contributing to a huge part of all of our gaming identities.
And so, while I couldn’t speak for everyone’s experiences with absolute certainty, and I am a little late in sharing...I did something which I hope you all won’t mind.
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