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Nintendo's Inventor

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Nintendo's Inventor

Gunpei Yokoi sometimes transliterated Gumpei Yokoi, was a Japanese video game designer. He was a long-time Nintendo employee, best known as creator of the Game & Watch handheld system, inventor of the Control Pad (whose plus-shaped design nearly all video game controllers attempt to mimic today), the original designer of the Game Boy, and producer of a few long-running and critically acclaimed video game franchises, such as Metroid and Kid Icarus.

In 1966, Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo at the time, came to a hanafuda factory Yokoi was working at and took notice of a toy, an extending arm, that Yokoi made for his own amusement during spare time as the company's machine maintenance man. Yamauchi ordered Yokoi to develop it as a proper product for the Christmas rush. The Ultra Hand was a huge success, and Yokoi was asked to work on other Nintendo toys including the Ten Billion Barrel puzzle, a miniature remote-controlled vacuum cleaner called the Chiritory, a baseball throwing machine called the Ultra Machine, and a "Love Tester." He worked on toys until the company decided to make video games in 1974, when he became one of its first game designers, only preceded by Genyo Takeda. While traveling on the Shinkansen, Yokoi saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons. Yokoi then got the idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature video gaming pastime, and went on to create Game & Watch, a line of handheld electronic games. In 1981, Yamauchi appointed Yokoi to supervise Donkey Kong, an arcade game created by Shigeru Miyamoto. Yokoi explained many of the intricacies of game design to Miyamoto at the beginning of his career, and the project only came to be approved after Yokoi brought Miyamoto's game ideas to the president's attention.

After the worldwide success of Donkey Kong, Yokoi continued to work with Miyamoto on the next Mario game, Mario Bros. He proposed the multiplayer concept and convinced his co-worker to give Mario some superhuman abilities, such as the ability to jump unharmed from great heights.

After Mario Bros., Yokoi produced several R&D1 games, such as Kid Icarus and Metroid. He designed R.O.B. and the Game Boy, the latter of which became a worldwide success. Another of his creations, the Virtual Boy, was a commercial failure, but was not the reason for his subsequent departure from Nintendo. According to his colleague Yoshihiro Taki, "Yokoi had originally decided to retire at 50 to do as he pleased. His retirement had simply been a bit later than planned." According to David Sheff's book Game Over, Yokoi never actually intended for the console to be released in its present form. However, Nintendo pushed the Virtual Boy to market so that it could focus development resources on the Nintendo 64.

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