Howard & Gail
HP: It never would've happened without Gail. Gail is one of those incredible work powerhouses -- super smart, super energy, very creative, selfless, and on and on. She was the driving force behind getting it done.
Mr. Arakawa would come up and say, "What do you think about this?" And he'd get an honest answer from her and a believable story about what was possible and what wasn't.
GT: The company was growing and maturing, and we were getting a much bigger marketing and advertising department, so I wasn't running all of marketing communications at that time. I had when we were tiny.
I needed to come in, like, tomorrow [out of maternity leave, to start on the magazine], and I had a baby. The gals at work used to laugh when I would bring my son in, who was like six weeks old, and I'd hand him off to someone in the office and I'd go into some big Japanese meeting to discuss Nintendo Power.
They didn't know what to do because he was crying. They fed him water, and I went into a crazy fit over it. I think I was so dumb that I didn't know it would be fine, and they were so dumb that they didn't know...none of us knew what to do with a six-week-old baby in the office while I was attending these meetings.
But it worked out. He's still thriving.
HP: Gail was very strong at being a publisher and an editor. Nothing got by her, just from a pure print production standpoint. Also, she was pretty creative for print production. But when it came to the games, I knew that if I didn't catch it, it would get printed, and we'd print a million of them and send them out to kids.
The First Issue
GT: The biggest thing was the masthead, of course. Nintendo's marketing slogan at the time was "Now you're playing with power." The idea was to stay within what we were doing in marketing. We talked about naming the magazine something like "Power Player." The trademark for that wasn't available, not because someone had a video game magazine named that -- it just wasn't available.
That was the deal with Mr. Arakawa. In this particular realm, he had very strong ideas. He came back and said, "The 'now you're playing with power' part? That's fine, whatever. But whatever name you come up with for the masthead, it has to have the word Nintendo."
We had a small agency called Griffith's Advertising who did our covers, so the first issue had a clay model done by Will Vinton Studios in Oregon, who at the time did a lot of famous claymation, like the California Raisins. They molded that Mario for us to take pictures of.
HP: That issue she pulled together with Tokuma Enterprises in Japan, which is kind of like the Time Corp of Japan. I believe they were doing Famicom [magazine]. They were supportive of us, and served as executive publisher or something. We did all of the printing over there, and we were initially doing all the publishing over there with Work House, which is this small design company in Tokyo.
GT: We enlisted some teams in Japan to help us. The magazine was co-published, really, by Nintendo of America. They used a studio that had expertise in making these kinds of layouts and video game maps and that kind of thing to support us. We directed how many pages, what we wanted to talk about in the magazine, set up regular columns like Classified Information and Video Shorts and that kind of thing, and they provided us with the graphic support. We wrote the copy.
HP: When you look back on it...in modern times you'd think, "Well, they probably had a staff of 50 running around doing all sorts of different things." No, we did not. It was only about a half-dozen people scattered across Nintendo of America and Work House and Tokuma in Japan that really got things going.
After a while Gail started getting writers on staff, but it was really thin to begin with. It wasn't thin because Nintendo was one of those companies like Microsoft who would get twice the work done with half the people. It was just because it was all new, and everybody was doing so many different things at the same time.
We just did it. Doing things didn't mean going out and hiring people. Doing things meant doing them, and then after figuring out what could be done, maybe hiring people who could replace you so you could move on to the next project.
I don't know if you've ever worked at a small company when you're doing a startup thing, but everybody does everything. Arakawa would come out and help pack brochures for the trade shows and stuff like that. So would his wife, Yoko. Everybody worked together. But I had a lot of jobs. When we started that, I was still a warehouse manager responsible for shipping all that stuff in and out.
GT: Howard and I went to Japan to work on the editorials and layouts. Pretty much every issue involved two trips to Japan. Usually, Howard and I made one, and the production manager made the second. We got over there to work on the layouts and figure out what we liked and didn't like.
We were in some hotel suite, with everyone smoking on the tenth story of some hotel in Tokyo.
[In Japan] there's a very different sensibility about certain kinds of color, especially with greens. They tend more toward the olive greens, or oranges. They have a very different sensibility about fonts, and what the font reflects, and background colors, and that kind of thing. I was directing them that I didn't like it or wanted to change it, and there was all this uproar.
So Howard was trying to be funny and got everyone to be on the same team. It wasn't that he was saying "don't listen to [her]," but...he was saying something about me being the Dragon Lady. "Don't worry about it, she's just the Dragon Lady."
Unfortunately, that is something that really stuck, and from 1987 until I left Nintendo, the creative people that I worked with over there all knew that I was the Dragon Lady. That didn't do a lot for my reputation and the idea they were working with an American woman who was supposed to be the boss.
While we were going through all these traumas of trying to get on the same page, the art director quit. He didn't want to work with me. [laughs] He walked out. He didn't really want to get on board with my direction and stormed out. But there was a gentlemen there who at the time was a more junior person in our staff who stepped up and said, "I know what she's asking for, and I know what they want." I don't know if he believed it, but he made it appear that it wasn't so unreasonable that we were trying to do something more appropriate for our market.
That gentleman, Mr. Orimo, became the art director for the magazine, especially in terms of the Japanese construction of maps and gameplay. He ultimately moved his group to the U.S. to service the magazine, as V Design. They went on to continue for 20 years, participating with the magazine.