For many, video games are used as a tool to have fun with friends or to pass the time. However, for someone like me, they are used as a tool to escape.

Growing up, I was never the most popular child, nor the most outgoing. Going to school might have been fun for some, but for me it was often a time of high anxiety, thanks to a combination of self-esteem issues and being made fun of for looking a bit too different. Unfortunately, being on the heavier side usually makes you the target for easy jokes. Because of this lack of friends, I didn’t have tons of options for what to do in my free time. Understanding my need for something with which to fill my time, my mother gave me a Game Boy.

gameboy saturo iwata

The original Game Boy console.

After I got my Game Boy, my passion for video games blossomed. Game systems were always on my Christmas lists, and I tried to get anything I could. Video games became much more than just a fun activity; they became something I could do to get away from the stresses and anxieties of the day. Having a readily available safe place is a huge deal to a child who might have problems finding friends.

One of the biggest companies in games is Nintendo. Instead of focusing on all the things that might be wrong with games, Nintendo offered a door to a world that was filled with characters that almost felt like family. Games don’t care about what you look like or how you act at school. They’re all about having fun and creating new experiences. Without Nintendo, I doubt I would have found that original love for gaming.

Satoru Iwata

Satoru Iwata, President and CEO of Nintendo, at the 2011 Game Developers Conference.

Satoru Iwata, the president and CEO of Nintendo, recently passed away at the untimely age of 55. If you didn’t know who Iwata was, you don’t have to look very far to learn. Have you ever heard of Pokémon? What about Kirby, or perhaps Super Smash Bros.? Iwata had a hand in all of these game franchises and countless others, many of which may be some your favorite games of all time. His impact on the industry is immeasurable, and while any death is sad, his untimely passing hits a little too close to home for someone like me.

Nintendo likely had a big role in some part of your video gaming life. And Satoru Iwata himself had a bigger impact than you would probably guess. As I stated above, many iconic Nintendo games would never have been created without him, but it was his ideals that made him a truly great man.

As Iwata once said, “Above all, video games are meant to be just one thing; fun. Fun for everyone.” He never stopped believing that. His love for gaming stretched beyond just making money, and that was evident in the countless titles he had a hand in. That idea and love of games has spread far beyond him, as millions of people now understand the joy that video games can bring.

There are countless stories about Satoru Iwata that show his love of gaming. He was an exceptional programmer. He almost single-handedly saved EarthBound. He also worked on the expansive Pokémon Gold & Silver games. He was a man who valued his own employees over himself. When Nintendo systems were underperforming, he took a huge pay cut rather fire any employees.

While Iwata may be gone, he will most certainly never be forgotten. Not by me, not by anyone who’s ever had the joy of playing a Nintendo game. Nintendo helped children create a safe haven through games—a place they can escape to in order to find moments of happiness. I was one of those kids. For that, I will be eternally grateful to him.

Nicole Tanner

Nicole Tanner

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.