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Gunpei Yokoi, also seen as Gumpei Yokoi (横井 軍平 Yokoi Gunpei) (September 10, 1941–October 4, 1997) was one of the most important figures in the history of Nintendo and helped with the development of the Metroid series.
Work at NintendoEdit
Toys and Early DaysEdit
Gunpei Yokoi began working at Nintendo in 1965 after barely graduating college with a degree in electronics from Doshisha University. Yokoi started out working on the assembly line for the Hanafuda cards as a maintenance engineer.
In 1970, 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, which Yokoi made for his own amusement during spare time. Yamauchi ordered Yokoi to develop it as a proper product for the Christmas rush. The Ultra Hand was a huge success, selling approximately 1.2 million units. Yokoi was soon moved from maintenance duty to product development. Yokoi went on to develop many other toys during Nintendo's toy era.
Game & WatchEdit
When Nintendo eventually began selling video games, Yamauchi asked Yokoi to come up with products in this field. The initial result was Nintendo's popular Game & Watch series of handhelds.
Research & Development 1Edit
Nintendo began assigning its chief engineers to head their own divisions as the electronic industry boomed in the late seventies. Yokoi was appointed to the general manager of the Nintendo Research & Development 1 group. R&D1 consisted of 55 designers, programmers, and engineers. It was with this group that Yokoi came up with many new ideas for Nintendo as it entered into the video games market.
Before Shigeru Miyamoto got his own R&D department in 1984, Gunpei Yokoi helped to produce many of his famous arcade games, such as Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and the original Mario Bros. In 1985, Yokoi and his R&D department were responsible for Kid Icarus, as well as the first title in the Metroid series, Metroid. Later in 1986, a part of Yokoi's R&D1 group branched off to form Intelligent Systems, and Yokoi later produced other video games. The remaining members of R&D1 remained with Yokoi, and they began developing what would become one of Nintendo's most profitable products, the Game Boy.
Perhaps Yokoi's most notable work in the hardware area was the Game Boy handheld, released in 1989. Many games for the Game Boy were developed by Yokoi and R&D1. Due to its success, they were assigned to develop exclusively for the Game Boy. Metroid II: Return of Samus was such a game.
Yokoi had become one of Nintendo's most respected members with his developing of the Game Boy alongside his other achievements. However, his success was shadowed by a dark period when he developed the Virtual Boy, a home console which presented games in red and black. While the Virtual Boy did present a level of 3D graphics, the red presented by the machine often irritated many players' eyes, and the machine itself was also fairly uncomfortable to use.
Soon after he left Nintendo, Yokoi began the company Koto Laboratory in Kyoto. There he began development of the WonderSwan, a handheld developed in partnership between Koto and Bandai. Yokoi never saw the final product of the WonderSwan, which was released in 1999, long after his death. The first game released for the WonderSwan was named Gunpey in his honor.
On October 4, 1997, Yokoi was killed in a car accident. He was riding in a car driven by Etsuo Kiso, a businessman from Nintendo. After a minor car accident involving a truck, Kiso and Yokoi pulled over to examine the damage of the two automobiles. While examining, two cars rammed into the broken down car from either side, crushing Yokoi. Yokoi was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead two hours later. Kiso suffered two badly broken bones and severe whiplash.
Awards and recognitionEdit
- Yokoi posthumously received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony on March 6, 2003.
- G4 ran an episode of Game Makers with the Game Boy as the topic. Much of the episode talks about Yokoi, his position prior to the Game Boy, and his death.
- Wikipedia's Gunpei Yokoi article
- About.com Guide to Game Boy - All things Game Boy: News, reviews, history, culture and development. Updated several times a week.
- Gunpei Yokoi's Lifetime Achievement Award
- Gunpei Yokoi
- N-Sider Profile: Gunpei Yokoi
- N-Sider: History of R&D 1
- Gunpei Yokoi profile at MobyGames