I've been thinking about his passing for a while, and I think I now have the words needed to explain what I feel about it.
Normally, the death of a CEO/President wouldn't phase me. Sure, I would show my condolences, but not to the point of shedding a tear. Yet, for some reason, Mr. Iwata was different, and I didn't understand why. I never met this person, nor did I play many of his games. What it took me was to look back at what he had done, what his record was like, and when I did, I could only think of nothing but respect.
For those who aren't aware, Mr. Iwata was known for his talent in programming, a crucial skill that is part of the game design process. He would often go on record about how much he was interested in games to the point of coding small games on his calculator during math classes in high school, then showing them off to his friends after the class was over. When he announced to his parents that he wanted to be a game developer, they were very disappointed in his decision at first. Despite this, he landed a part time job at HAL that later became a full time job, doing all sorts of things. His passion also allowed him to accomplish incredible feats as a programmer, such as reworking the entirety of Pokemon Gold/Silver to decrease the file size within a week, be it through cleaning out unnecessary data or reprogramming aspects of the game, or how he copied the battle code for Stadium despite not knowing the source code needed, or reworking the ENTIRETY of Earthbound within a week, as well as debugging the majority of Melee within that same amount of time.
Yet, despite knowing these amazing feats, that wasn't what saddened me. What stood out to me was not just his skill as a developer, but how much he was when it came to the face of Nintendo. Think about it. He put himself out there not as some corporate mind spouting releases and numbers, but as a corporate gamer, as an icon that had fun doing it, maintaining the model that Nintendo follows so well: fun first, always. He would have fun with all his presentations, the Iwata Asks, and the Nintendo Directs, which he faithfully presented himself all the way to his death (we may have not seen him for 2015's E3, but he was there still voicing the handsome puppet representing him). Take note that in all of his interviews, he is displayed as joking, charming, and fun, notably laughing in almost all of his transcripts.
And then I heard about stories relating to him, very kind and nice stories. They were stories that displayed a person willing to set aside some time from his busy schedule if it meant making one person's day better. That's all he really wanted out of the company and his role in the world. He wanted to continue making people happy through experiences and bonds just like many other notable Nintendo senior members, so he helped out on ideas that would make those happen.
Iwata is that uncle you always looked forward to when relatives would visit. He would bring a few cool things to show off to you in hopes of it making you smile, and if it didn't, he would try better. This guy sacrificed his pay when the Wii U was in trouble in order to make sure no one would be laid off and everyone would continue making games with optimism in mind.
I hope that Iwata passed away peacefully with little to no regrets. He made a lot things happen for the company itself that I am proud of witnessing. The first reveals of the DS and the Wii were one of the best moments that happened in gaming. I remember watching that conference in both 2005 and 2006, practically being blown away with what was coming out. My brothers and I all combined what money we had in order to buy this console, as the Gamecube was the last console that our parents would buy for us. 2006 was Nintendo's best year of innovation. Ever.
Mr. Iwata has set up the next steps for Nintendo, and I hope they will be the best years. God bless you. May you rest in peace.