In 1981, Nintendo released Donkey Kong to arcades on both sides of the Pacific, solidifying not only the company’s video entertainment division, but what would soon become the platforming genre. Though the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto, its success both in its design and in the corporate structure was guided by a man whose impact on the company’s early days could not be underplayed: Gunpei Yokoi (横井 軍平, 1941-1997).
Yokoi’s legacy extends surprisingly far back. Before Super Metroid. Before the Game Boy. Before Donkey Kong. Even before Game & Watch, and before Nintendo was in video games at all. No, his involvement all started with a simple extending arm.
Nintendo is a world-renowned gaming company, traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, with offices in North America, Europe, and Australia. The company is headquartered in Kyoto, where it was founded in 1889.
1889? That’s not a typo. Nintendo was founded in Anno Domini eighteen-hundred eighty-nine. But to see why, we have to look even further back into history to discover the origins of Hanafuda, Nintendo’s original product line.
If you’re of a certain age, chances are that at some party or sleepover, you’ve played a Super Smash Bros. game. And why not? It’s a game that thrives on chaos, and is easy enough for newcomers to play, but is technical enough for big-time professional competition. After playing it for a while, the focus becomes less on the characters and items you play as, but on the mayhem and devastation you can cause to your friends. In fact, you might forget what the gimmick is entirely, but the late Don LaFontaine shall always remind you:
“Something’s gone wrong in the happy-go-lucky world of Nintendo!”