Satoru Iwata was not your conventional gaming executive. When E3 rolls around, I typically ignore the suits, the hosts, and the CEOs from all of the other companies, as I know they are just marketing pigeons trying to hype up some product. And that's okay – it's a part of the business, and there are some amazing moments that have spurned from such notions.
But Iwata wasn't cut from the same cloth. He was genuine in his enthusiasm for this medium. When he got on stage or on camera, there was something about him that transcended the presentation; a heart beating for the power of video games. Unfortunately, that heart ceased a few weeks ago. Iwata succumbed to an apparent resurgence of the tumor that attacked his bile duct in 2013, and it was a shock to just about everyone, Nintendo included. I don't know if Iwata necessarily knew if he was relapsing, and I don't know what Nintendo's next step will be in determining how to move forward. But that's not the point of this essay. I want to focus on what he devoted himself to through the majority of his tragically short 55 years: the games.
Balloon Fight is one of my favorite old-school arcade games. It has an incredible precision that Joust and other contemporaries lacked, and I liked the quirky design of the characters and feared the sinister fish that swallowed up anyone foolish enough to tempt it. Iwata programmed the game so tightly that Shigeru Miyamoto suggested consulting Iwata about how to handle the task of swimming in Super Mario Bros.! Iwata himself remembered that "one thing I recommended was that instead of calculating the character's position using integers, they should also calculate it using decimal points, thereby doubling the precision. In this way, calculating gravity, buoyancy, acceleration and deceleration all become more precise and the movements look smoother."