The ESA Foundation's eleventh annual Nite To Unite For Kids was held in San Francisco on Wednesday night, and Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto was on hand to receive the 2009 ESA Champion Award.
The charity event at the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, which includes a dinner and a silent and live auction, is run by the ESA Foundation, the Entertainment Software Association’s charitable arm.
Nite to Unite for Kids has raised an impressive $11 million for children's charities since its inception in 1999, through a combination of donations from game industry companies and individuals of all kinds -- showing the potential of the game biz for giving back to the community.
But the excitement was perhaps centered around Nintendo's Miyamoto, on hand in San Francisco to receive an award that had previously been given to notables such as Electronic Arts’ Bing Gordon, Nintendo of America's Howard Lincoln, Sega's Isao Ogawa, and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Ken Kutaragi.
He was introduced by Nintendo Of America head Reggie Fils-Aime, who chose to honor the legendary Nintendo designer by explaining what Miyamoto-san meant to him personally.
Fils-Aime explained that his first console was a Super Nintendo, and the first game he owned Super Mario World
. Working in marketing at Pizza Hut at that time, he became completely enthralled, managing to complete the game with 99 lives.
Then came The Legend Of Zelda: Link To The Past
, and Fils-Aime praised the title's creative genius, saying that to him, "That game was like another child... that game was like a second job."
He then related an anecdote about his 6-year old son playing Zelda
at the same time as he did, and the circumstances whereby his son took over Reggie's save -- poised at the last boss in the game -- and beat it.
"I was so pissed," Fils-Aime joked, but he explained that he felt his personal gaming story was just one of the millions that Shigeru Miyamoto has inspired, and ended by simply saying of the Mario
creator: "There is no-one like him."
Miyamoto then took the stage to a standing ovation from the assembled industry vets, and said in English, "I am very honored," before gratefully receiving his award and giving a brief translated speech in Japanese.
As he explained in starting, "All of us have grown up seeing how our video games have touched the lives of children and whole families."
Indeed, he commented of those currently creating games, "I often hear that a lot of those people played Super Mario Bros
, and that's why they joined the industry and started making games."
Miyamoto believe that it's an exciting time for the games industry, since "we're seeing new genres being born every day."
His mind was particularly on his new title, Wii Music
, and though he joked, "I'm not here to do any PR for Wii Music" -- getting laughs from the audience -- he did say that he was excited about the title introducing children to the "future that they may potentially have with music."
In fact, Miyamoto said that he hopes, in a few years, to see professional musicians who were introduced to the profession with Wii Music
, in a similar way to Super Mario Bros
inspiring game developers.
He concluded that it's the job of developers such as him to create games that enchant the world, and for children, to "see what we can do to put smiles on their faces."
Also during the evening, an enthusiastic live auction helped to increase the charity giving. Some of the most enthusiastic bidding went to a meet and greet session with teen pop stars The Jonas Brothers, as well as a spring training visit to the Seattle Mariners baseball team, donated by owner and one-time Nintendo lawyer and chairman Howard Lincoln.
There was also a host of silent auction items to help with the event's charity goals, spanning everything from UFC posters to a Metalocalypse Adult Swim cartoon show prize package (intriguingly donated by Konami).
This regular event continues to fulfill a vital charity function, and it's likely that the ESA Foundation will update in the near future with a final tally from this year's Nite To Unite.