Meet Nintendo’s Original Gaming Master

Meet Nintendo’s Original Gaming Master

(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 say “Oh, 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.

100 thoughts on “Meet Nintendo’s Original Gaming Master”

  1. Now’s your chance to ask THE REAL Mr. Nintendo, Howard Phillips, anything you want on Reddit. Submit your questions here:

  2. Sorry, cant take listening the millenial "presenter" this is exactly why the retro scene is so over priced and gaming has descended into moronic story lines, DLC and console garbage

  3. It's funny how in the past parents were worried about addictive toys. Now those kids are adults and them and their kids are addicted to their phones. Kinda ironic

  4. To much of anything is not good moderation is key! Alot or people dnt get that! Video games for enterainment sure but i tend to think its a false sense of accomplishment! Cant wait for the hatefull comments!

  5. Just imagine the price of that Game boy if he sold it! He probably has a lot of priceless items in his house! Cool guy tho!

  6. I so know how he feels. I manage my library's gaming club its fun to be able to meet with new kids and show them a whole new world of gaming. Plus exploding there little minds with tons of amazing stories on what we grew up with

  7. Howard: God I’m embarrassing

    Me: Whattheheckyouworkedtonintendooneofthemostpopularvideogamecompanyeverhowcanyoubeembbaresed.

  8. Wow! At age 45 Ive been a gamer all my life since the beginning. In this video they showed Nintendo Power Mag and until right now, had completely forgotten abt that mag. I use to read and study every damn page and also loved the comic. Great going down memory lane!

  9. If he's still working with Nintendo then I wish they give him a bigger role, he has reggie fils-aime vibe.

  10. It's always Reggie this Reggie that.. Finally a video about Howard Phillips. He's been forgotten by modern Nintendo fans and most other people making retrospective videos. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this.

  11. Funny thing I have all the game boy and only missing NSN and SUPER NSN. I have the rest best ones. Beside the one that made only I. Japan. Well that what I learn one one system we got form. And another thing is the gameboy lite was only made I. Japan. But I think that one was lie. I saw in USA a store once I think. What Nintendo system you have? Write back to me.

  12. I subscribed to Nintendo Power when it first came out. I was in 8th grade and I remember it came with a free game, Dragon Warrior(really fun at the time!). Glad to see Howard doing well. I wish I had kept all my old magazines. I had the first few issues of Game Pro and EGM too. Good memories.

  13. I Grew Up Playing Videogames Because Of Nintendo And Sega And Epic Games And EA/Electronic Arts And Jam City And Avalanche Studios And Disney Interactive And WayForward And The Pokemon Company And GameFreak And Activision And Blizzard And Bandai Namco And Square Enix And Level5. And Now, I Can't Stop Playing Because Of Those Companies. Thank You Howard Philips For Bringing Our Childhood To Life. You Made Our Childhoods Awesome And Great And Good And Better. Without You, We'd Be Bored.

  14. To me the most notable issue concerning Philips was Super Mario Bros 2, the original version not the modified Doku Doku Panic.

    He found it difficult but again and without Philips, SMB 2 in America would not be The DDP modified.

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