When one tries to list the names of those responsible for Nintendo’s successes, you often get the usual suspects: Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, Koji Kondo, Gunpei Yokoi, etc.
But even the most dedicated Nintendo devotee might not recognize Masayuki Uemura. And who is that you might be asking? Why, he’s only the guy who designed the Famicom, which would become the Nintendo Entertainment System in America.
The Famicom, unquestionably one of the most influential and flat out important pieces of hardware related to gaming of the past 30 years, turns 30 in just a few days. July 15, to be precise. So Famitsu sat down to ask its maker to ask some questions, with Polygon was nice enough to translate the answers for those of us who don’t know Japanese.
The entire thing, top to bottom, is a fascinating read. Though one stand out portion is about the moment the semi-successful toy maker realized he had become a bona fide successful video game console designer:
“I lived in a big apartment complex in Osaka with around 1000 people in it, and usually if a toy sold a million across Japan, there’d be one family or so in each building of the complex that had it. With the Famicom, though, I’d start having neighborhood kids go up to me and say ’Hey, that video game you made doesn’t work on my TV.’ They’d ask me for customer service! And that just kept on happening.”
Uemura is also delighted that many of the games designed for the hardware that he designed three decades ago are still played today, via the Virtual Console and similar means. Not only that, but he feels that it’s important that past games are remembered, and applauds similar efforts by some of Japan’s educational institutions:
“You have the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs taking steps to preserve anime, comics and games. Why do you think that is? In my opinion it’s because throughout history, play wasn’t something people kept records on very much. You might have the tools for play remaining, but how you actually played was mostly communicated by word-of-mouth. So maybe we can find what appear to be toys from the Indus civilization of 4000 or 5000 years ago, but we have no idea what they did with them.
Meanwhile, video games come with instructions. If we can bring that along to the next generation, then not only is that preserved, but we also preserve the feelings of the people that made those games.”