Nintendo Co. Ltd. recently announced that on July 11th, 2015, their president Satoru Iwata passed away due to a bile duct growth. In his stead, at least until a replacement is determined, it seems that Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto — each a Representative Director and Senior Managing Director — will be fulfilling his duties.

I probably should have written something about this sooner. The truth is, I haven’t been sure what to write, least of all what might not be parroting the massive respect and look back in admiration of his many accomplishments that all the bigger sites have been doing. As it is now, I’m just writing.

The news first came as a shock. After all, it had sounded as though Mr. Iwata had beaten the health problems that had been troubling him over the last year or so. As the news has settled in, though, it’s weighed on my mind, and I’ve just felt worse and worse.

I’ve seen it said by some that people shouldn’t be so affected by this, and while there may be a morsel of truth to that, I think it was said more to get a rise out of people.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but while I’ve never gotten to meet Mr. Iwata in person, much less know him — how do I put this? I’m not a terribly social person. I don’t “get out” very much at all, least of all in a social capacity. Stuff comes up, sure, but most of my interaction comes with people online. And frankly, I’m fine with that — online is just as “real” to me as seeing a person face to face, maybe even more so in some cases, and anyone who says otherwise is either full of it or cocooned in a shell of ignorance.

In any case, it felt like seeing Mr. Iwata online as frequently as I did through Nintendo Directs, he actually seemed more “real” to me than some people I see in real life. All else being equal between online and off, even though I never got to say anything to him, I dare say that I spent more time and felt more like I knew Mr. Iwata than I do other people I’ve met. It’s weird, I know, but having that sort of interaction nonetheless can leave an imprint on a person, sort of like a teacher or a coach or someone you don’t really talk to, but nonetheless “know” in some way.

Of course, there’s the issue of whether you “know” a person like that at all, and I imagine that opens up a whole layer of other social discussion. Not getting into that here; just getting out there that there are ways people can impact others’ lives even without being friends, chums, going out for a drink, or whatever. We’re a more complex species than that.

That said, I do wish I’d gotten to meet Mr. Iwata at some point. Not simply due to his role as Nintendo’s president, but for a more simple reason: to tell him that one of his first, earliest games has long been one of my favorites.

In truth, I loved Balloon Fight before I ever learned that Iwata had a hand in it; that he did just made it that much cooler. It’s a fairly humble game by most standards, and I’m not sure how widespread the appreciation is for it. Some simply shrug it off as a rip-off of Joust, and while that may be true to a small degree, they do play very differently and — in my honest opinion — Balloon Fight is the better of the two. I won’t deny the coolness of jousting on ostriches over boiling lava, but from a gameplay standpoint, Balloon Fight is king.

I suspect the game has always had a special place in Mr. Iwata’s heart, as a remake for Nintendo DS was released as a Japanese Club Nintendo exclusive (that I wish ours had gotten), it was the first Wii U Virtual Console release (paving way to Mr. Iwata appearing on Game Center CX to promote it), and it was even an attraction in Nintendo Land. Oh, and it just got a stage in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, though I admittedly used Super Smash Bros. Brawl‘s stage editor to try to create my own.

That said, I wonder if anyone had ever come to him and said it was one of their favorites of all time. I have a lot of favorites for different reasons, so I can’t say I have one definitive favorite, but Balloon Fight would have been right up there. I wonder how he might have reacted to that.

Of course, Mr. Iwata has had a hand in many, many other games as well. One of my wife’s favorites, Earthbound, might not have been the same were it not for his programming prowess. He was also the one who helped put together the original pitch version of what would become Super Smash Bros., and if rumor is to be believed (“rumor” in that I’ve not found a reliable source), he was the one who convinced key people at Nintendo — Shigeru Miyamoto in particular — to allow for the use of Nintendo’s own characters, which would of course pave the way for others such as Mega Man to join in recently and take on the likes of Sonic, Pac-Man, and Mario.

He also rolled up his sleeves and stepped away from his corporate position to help debug Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube, ensuring it would make its release date. I have to express a certain gratitude for that, as it was not only my first taste of Smash (I wouldn’t play the original until years later on the Wii Virtual Console), but it was also the first game my wife and I got for our first new console after getting married — and ended up being the game we played for a while, too.

In addition to his super-1337 programming skills and resume, he just seems like a fun, stand-up guy:

Mr. Iwata was also admirable in his position as Nintendo’s president. Sure, I don’t agree with every move the company makes, but when sales weren’t as good as they had hoped, did he lay off employees at the ground level? Nope; he instead cut his own salary — twice. That’s pretty much unheard of, and again, extremely admirable.

He made it to the top of his field, but he never forgot his roots. He also made the company as a whole feel more personable, not only with the advent of Nintendo Directs but also his “Iwata Asks” interviews, which as someone has said should be collected into some sort of book. While the Nintendo Directs will no doubt continue, the question remains whether anyone can fill his shoes for interviews such as those.

I could probably go on for a lot longer with things to say, but I’m just going to note that a Miiverse community has been made to commemorate Mr. Iwata’s passing, and end on a compilation of just some of the noteworthy tweets from the past few days on my Twitter timeline. While reading those, you can listen to this Balloon Fight remix Hip Tanaka made in dedication to Mr. Iwata (courtesy of The Verge):

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