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- Peter G & Michael Rosamilia on September 10, 1941, and had
graduated with a degree in Elec-There‘s a saying on the Internet that
tronics from Doshinsha Univer-goes something like this:
sity. Like any other graduate, he
If you laugh, no one sees. was looking for work and paper-ing town with applications. Ya-
If you cry, no one cares. mauchi hired him to maintain the
machines on the assembly line. But fart just one time….
Cut to 1969. Yamauchi wanted
The editor wanted an article on the to expand Nintendo into the toy
history of Nintendo‘s Virtual Boy game market. During a visit to the
system, and the request landed on my plant, Yamauchi saw a strange
desk with a thud. I reacted with a device, a robot claw on an accor-
shrug. The NVB was not a game sys- dion arm. Yokoi explained it was
tem I was ever particularly interested something he whipped up during
in. My biggest concern was that writ- his downtime for fun. Yamauchi
ing about it would be completely dry. thought it was perfect, and Yokoi
Other game systems inspire some gave him the design. The ―Ultra
reaction one way or another. The Hand‖, as it was known, went on
Sega Genesis is my favorite system of to sell 1.2 million units over the
all time. The Nokia n-Gage had real course of a year.
potential. The Gizmondo‘s line-up Yamauchi recognized a good
sounded like a joke. The Tiger R- thing when he saw it, and
Zone WAS a joke. But the Virtual promptly moved Yokoi into de-
Boy? That inspired nothing but total velopment. Yokoi invented hit
apathy from me.
But a funny thing happened on the
way to the keyboard. The history of man to develop new technology
the NVB is simply a classic marketing around the idea of electronic games.
blunder, due to poor design, poor He created the Game & Watch series,
timing, and is really no more notewor- which was notable for two differences
thy than any number of other systems from most American products. Many
that sink like sand in the ocean. But American games used LED‘s, which
as I read more about it, I learned drew a lot of power. Yokoi opted for
more and more about its creator, lower-cost and lower-powered LCD
Gunpei Yokoi. This was not a system displays, which also reduced the size
conceived out of misplaced hubris. of the games to that of a credit card.
This was the work of an incredibly The other difference was the control
ingenious man, and this one misstep Yokoi’s Ultra Hand scheme. Yokoi introduced a standard-
got him thrown out of the sock hop. ized control, the cross-shaped joypad puzzles, games, and toys, including a that we all know and love today.
As just about every video game nut robot vacuum cleaner in 1978 (!) and
knows, Nintendo was originally a a dancing robot in 1985 (!!). With the Pick up a controller. Go ahead and
manufacturer of playing cards in Ja- intent of making indoor target ranges, pick up any controller built in the mid-
pan. In 1965, company head Hiroshi Yokoi invented the precursor to Nin- 80s or later. Odds are there is a big
Yamauchi received a job application tendo‘s light gun. Then, when Nin- button with either a rounded or cross-
from Gunpei Yokoi. Yokoi was born tendo noticed an American game shaped pattern on there somewhere. called Pong, Yokoi became the point Thank you, Gunpei. The man practi-
cally invented the D-pad. Directional
buttons were not new. The Entex
Select-A-Game, Milton Bradley‘s Mi-
crovision, Mattel‘s Intellivision, among
others, featured early concepts of
what would eventually evolve but it
was Gunpei Yokoi who crafted the
design into what would be essentially
a necessity on any modern controller.
It was Yokoi who standardized how
players interacted with the on-screen
This might sound like a small contri-
bution, but consider how many early
games functioned. Different games
had fundamentally different control
schemes. You had overlays that could
be placed on top of a controller to let
you know what buttons did what.
After Gunpei Yokoi‘s contribution, the
player to game interaction became
much more intuitive. You don‘t need
someone to tell you how to use the
controller. It is obvious enough so
that anybody who just looks at the
Donkey Kong Game & Watch (Continued on page 8)
7 | Video Game Trader Magazine | June 2008 |
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