On October 4, 1997, Gunpei Yokoi, the father of the Game Boy and a Nintendo icon, was struck by two vehicles, pinned and crushed while attending his own damaged automobile. He died two hours later from his injuries.
Now, this isn’t some post that asks “what could have been at Nintendo” if Gunpei had remained with us, because he had actually left Nintendo to work with Bandai to develop the Wonderswan well before his death. Actually, it’s a fairly quick post that examines how Gunpei’s legacy lives on at Nintendo today anyway, ten years later, in spite of the tragedy that befell him.
Here’s the portion of Gunpei’s life that resonated with me:
Yokoi articulated his philosophy of “Lateral thinking of withered technology” (??????????, “Lateral thinking of withered technology”? “Kareta Gijutsu no Suihei Shikou”) in the book, Yokoi Gunpei Game House (????????, Yokoi Gunpei Game House?), which consists of a collection of interviews. Withered technology in this context refers to a mature technology which is cheap and well understood. Lateral thinking refers to finding radical new ways of utilizing such technology. Yokoi held that toys and games do not necessarily require cutting edge technology; novel and fun game play are more important. In the interview he went as far as to suggest that expensive cutting edge technology sometimes gets in the way of developing a new product.
Of course, in Gunpei’s earlier days this philosophy led to the insanely popular Game & Watch series. Today, however, even though he’s been gone for some time, I can’t help but see a little of Gunpei’s touch in the DS and Wii as well. For that I celebrate Gunpei’s legacy on this somber day.