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  • (upbeat music)

  • - [Narrator] Finding the master sword in Zelda,

  • bouncing on a Goomba in Mario,

  • honing your skills in a duck hunt.

  • All things you probably did

  • as a kid with your first Nintendo system.

  • For most of us, playing games was a pastime.

  • But for one lucky man, this wasn't some hobby,

  • it was his job.

  • 1981 was a year of new frontiers.

  • In the U.S., a new decade of technology and pop culture

  • was approaching, making it a promising land

  • for booming Japanese companies.

  • America had said hello to a kitty a few years earlier,

  • but it was a gorilla that stole the attention

  • of the new generation.

  • Donkey Kong was Nintendo's first big breakthrough

  • in the western arcade scene.

  • The game helped the Japanese company climb its way

  • up to America, eventually establishing a new headquarter

  • in Seattle, Washington, to bolster their hit.

  • This is the story of one of their first employees

  • who was soon to become a gaming legend.

  • - No!

  • - [Narrator] This is Howard Phillips.

  • This is Howard Phillips' gaming jacket.

  • This is Howard Phillips' original 1989 Game Boy

  • and this is how Howard started working at Nintendo.

  • - Kind of embarrassing.

  • I started at Nintendo in 1981.

  • It was really just the five or six of us.

  • I was the shipping warehouse manager.

  • My role was to bring in all of the arcade games

  • and unload them and record all the serial numbers

  • and then pack them up for shipment.

  • - [Narrator] It doesn't sound

  • like the greatest gig in the world,

  • but working in the warehouse came with one pretty big perk.

  • - [Howard] I could play all the games.

  • Whenever a new game came in, I could open it up

  • and plug it in and play it.

  • - [Narrator] But playing games could never

  • be a full-time career, or could it?

  • Nintendo of America was run by this man,

  • Mr. Minoru Arakawa.

  • The company was looking to break into the U.S. market

  • but needed a little advice.

  • - The Japanese are very, very attentive to the customer

  • and the customer was king.

  • I was their, kind of, gateway into the U.S. zeitgeist,

  • I used to know what players really wanted to play.

  • - [Narrator] Why you, Howard?

  • - Who knows why out of the few people working

  • in the company at the time that I got selected

  • as being one of the more true voices.

  • I think it was just my enthusiasm for play.

  • You know, I'm a player's player, I love to play games.

  • I love to play at everything.

  • - [Narrator] In 1985, Nintendo was ready to move

  • out from the arcade and into the living room.

  • - Mr. Arakawa said to me,

  • What do you think are the best games?”

  • I played them all, and I said, “Mr. Arakawa,

  • these are the best 15 games.”

  • Everybody will love these games.”

  • - [Narrator] And so the game master was born.

  • - Howard Phillips, also known as Mr. Nintendo.

  • It's his job to test every Nintendo game that comes out.

  • - What is a game master?

  • It was really just a focus on what it means

  • when a player meets a game, it's that connection.

  • - We were really looking for someone

  • to represent the gamer

  • and to speak directly to the gamer.

  • And Howard really fit the bill.

  • He was like a grownup, but he was still like a kid.

  • He gave you the impression more of a character

  • than a business person.

  • - [Howard] I think the connection that I had with players

  • was that shared love of just gaming.

  • And then their mom or dad would show up

  • and they would say, but they're not educational

  • or whatever the negative association was that they wanted

  • to put with video games and their child.

  • - It may be the most addictive toy in history:

  • Nintendo video games.

  • - Is it turning their brains to mush?

  • - Shame on people that produce that trash,

  • it's child abuse, in my judgment.

  • - It was saddening to me that

  • that's how parents perceived their kids' joy

  • as something that was maybe a negative.

  • - [Narrator] Video games had a bad rep,

  • but Howard could see the positive effects

  • that the games had on kids.

  • - It was a shared love of the experience

  • of discovering something new

  • or being really, really frustrated at something

  • but just trying and being patient and persistent,

  • which is learning.

  • - [Narrator] And the players wanted to learn more:

  • more information, more tricks, more tips,

  • and the game master was there to deliver.

  • - [Announcer] Nintendo Power: your direct connection

  • to the pros for better play.

  • The official magazine of video mastery.

  • For ordering information...

  • - [Howard] My role was to make sure that every single bit

  • of information in that 132 pages each month

  • was accurate and spoke in a way that the players

  • wanted to understand and know about.

  • - [Narrator] But that wasn't the only role Howard played.

  • - When we were setting up all the columns

  • in Nintendo Power, we thought it would be great

  • to include a comic strip.

  • - [Howard] Howard and Nester is just a cartoon

  • that describes a child player

  • who's always trying to get past the next level in a game.

  • And Howard is the game master who knows everything

  • about the games who can provide some tips.

  • - [Narrator] And Howard is you?

  • - That's me.

  • Dear Howard Phillips, I am 12 years old

  • and your biggest fan.

  • My friends and I read Nintendo Power.

  • You're the best in your business.

  • Your biggest fan with a capital B, bye.

  • The notoriety of being game master really was crazy.

  • I would be pumping gas at the gas station,

  • I would be buying potato chips at the supermarket,

  • or I'd be at a movie and kids would come up to me

  • and their parents would come up to me

  • and sayOh, you're the guy.”

  • - [Narrator] The guy who was able to turn his passion

  • for video games into a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  • So Howard, what was the best part about being game master?

  • - It was really fun to fulfill people's dreams,

  • to shake the hand of some little kid

  • and ask them about their favorite game

  • and make them feel validated like they're smart and cool,

  • so it was really fun.

  • Over.

(upbeat music)

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The Rise of Nintendo’s Original Gaming Master

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    Evangeline posted on 2018/05/10
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