It all started with a boy.
Now that line may be extremely cliché, but in this case, it rings very close to the truth, and it couldn’t be summed up more clearly than with the man who would become the creator of yet another well-beloved Nintendo franchise: Satoshi Tajiri.
The “Bug Boy” was born in August 28 of 1965 in Machida, Tokyo. His father worked as a car salesman, while his mother was a housewife. Growing up, Satoshi always had a fascination with bugs. The fact that his parents lived near a forest only made that fascination all the more prominent, and the young Tajiri would wander off into the forest to observe the insects at his leisure, as he was want to do.
But even then, it was more than just mere observation. Satoshi would try to capture the insects he saw and create his own collection. He would also trade them with other friends to get the ones he wanted.
In addition to bug collecting, Satoshi was also a fan of comic books and anime.
I’m part of the first generation who grew up with manga [comics] and anime [animation], after ‘Godzilla’. [So] I was absorbed with Ultraman on TV and in manga.
In no time at all Satoshi would also become interested in video games, and scored a gig testing games for magazines.
Then in 1982, at the age of 17, Satoshi and his friends – all of whom loved video games as he did – met up and came up with an idea: they would create their own magazine about comic books and video games named “Game Freak”. The magazine may have been purely handwritten and stapled, but it soared in popularity, especially since kids everywhere could not enough of the reviews/tricks Satoshi and his friends wrote.
Because of the success of “Game Freak” Satoshi was able to write two books, “CAP Land” and “Catch ‘em all CAP Land”. However, despite this he still wanted more, and he and his friends would set off to create video games of their own. At this point Nintendo’s Game Boy had been launched, and Satoshi was inspired greatly by that little handheld. As a result he then began to think about creating a game that revolved around insects, a throwback to his own childhood. Then when he saw two kids playing with their Game Boys next to each other via a link cable, lightning struck, and Satoshi obtained the idea of making a game that revolved around trading.
Tajiri’s first thought had been what if insects could travel through that exact link cable? What if kids could catch/collect insects and then trade them that way?
The communication aspect of Game Boy – it was a profound image to me. It has a communication cable. In Tetris, its first game, the cable transmitted information about moving blocks. That cable really got me interested. I thought of actual living organisms moving back and forth across the cable.
With that idea in mind, Satoshi went to work designing the game, even managing to get some initial funding from a game design studio called Creatures. Eventually Satoshi was able to form his own company named after the same magazine he and his friends made: Game Freak.
Once he had his concept Satoshi then approached Nintendo with his idea, but the company was a bit hesitant, namely because Satoshi’s game was so far removed from what the company was used to, and by extension its audience. Despite this, Nintendo executives decided to take a chance on the designer, and Tajiri went to work for Nintendo.
It would take six years for the game to go from concept to finished product – which is the longest for any Nintendo project – but after those six years, and even more surprisingly, with virtually no marketing or publicity – Pokémon was unleashed to the masses in Japan, and eight million copies would end up being sold.
Deciding to go for the gold, Nintendo executives made the decision to bring Pokemon to the U.S. Naturally there were some doubts since Nintendo had learned from experience that success in Japan doesn’t always translate to success in America. However, the game company went forward with it, and the payoff was beyond their imagination: follow-up sequels, an ongoing TV series (that is still running new episodes to this very day), feature films, trading cards, and countless merchandising of everything one can think of.
Even after all these years later, and after the phenomenon has cooled, Pokemon has still stayed as one of the top brands in the world, and especially one of the top franchises for Nintendo, who has continued to expand the property into more core games, as well as other ventures with the characters in off-shoots, like the Mystery Dungeon games.
Although he has long since branched away from Pokemon and has other video games for Nintendo, Satoshi still has remained as one of the top developers. And to think it all started from a childhood passion he had about insects, which is yet another lesson that we as people should also learn: Take your real-life passions/experiences – no matter what they might be – and apply them to what you want to do. You never know what might result, and more than likely the success of that “thing” – whatever it is – will exceed even your biggest expectations, to where it doesn’t just impact you, but it will also impact the lives of other people in the both the most positive and the most amazing of ways.
(Artwork by rylade4751 on Deviantart)
That’s a photo of Tsunekazu Ishihara, not Satoshi Tajiri.