Editorial note: this was intended to be released on the 13th of July, but due to a technical error was not. It is presented now as it was originally intended. Thank you for your understanding.
The news has been passed around by now. Mr. Satoru Iwata, President and CEO of Nintendo, dead at 55 of cancer. It’s certainly sobering news, and it’s definitely a shock to the system of anyone who grew up playing the games he put his passion into– Balloon Fight, the Kirby series, even Pokemon. In the days to come we will be hearing the stories anew: how he ascended to leadership of HAL Laboratories when it was on its last legs, how he single-handedly reverse-engineered the Pokemon Red and Green battle system for use in Pokemon Stadium, how he rolled up his sleeves and did debug work for Super Smash Bros. Melee. His victories live on in our victories in the games he left for us.
But in the past few years so many of the heroes of our childhoods have passed away. In 2013, Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo during the years when it transitioned from a hanafuda manufacturer to a video game juggernaut. In 2010, Satoshi Kon, visionary director of films such as Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers. In 2014, Robin Williams, comedian and geek supreme. Just this past January, Chikao Otsuka, a prolific voice actor and father of the equally-renowned Akio Otsuka. And in June, Christopher Lee, Renaissance man who acted, sang, and defended the world on- and off-screen as a Hammer horror hero and a World War II veteran. The list goes on. And so must we.
That’s probably the hardest thing for our generation to realize in the coming months and years. People who we grew up with as the creators and producers of our favorite media are just as mortal as we are. Eventually, they will be gone, and we will be the ones people look up to as the heroes of their childhoods. It’s not boasting to say that– it’s in fact heart-rending. Because the things that guided us when we were young are now relegated to history, and we must guide those who will surpass us.
For my part, death has always been in the back of my mind, ever since I was very young. I lost my grandfather when I was four, and I only have very faint memories of his time with me. It is the inevitable karmic bill for having a large family; funerals become depressingly commonplace. Earlier this year, the OTDT family lost one of its own, as well; Kyle Honsberger, a long-time listener and friend of the show, passed away in March. The sting of that loss is magnified in that he was not of the generation that taught us. He was of the generation that we were supposed to teach. Death is tragic; death before one’s full life is spent is unbearable.
In the end, though, we must carry on. Those who we lost still live on in the memories we share and the legends we pass down. In a sense, they are immortalized, eternally safeguarded in film, in sound, in silicon and in the world. From a humble hanafuda card to the massive complexity of a virtual universe, from the instantaneous processing of a computer instruction to the millennia of history on the silver screen, in small ways and in great, they are not gone forever. Those who taught us can still teach others. That is the gift of our generation, the blessing that they bestowed upon us: we kept their words safe, that they may keep others safe.
We have made of them legends. And legends never die.