Saturday, April 14, 2012

Meet Nintendo's biographer Florent Gorges

Beforemario is focussed on Nintendo's toys and games from 1965 to 1983. And although this is only a small part of the company's long history, I expect it will keep me busy for some time to come.

But someone out there has taken on the formidable task of chronicling the entire history of Nintendo, from the start in 1889 up to the present day. And not just covering the main events, but exposing every nook an cranny of the rich history in meticulous detail, unearthing many new facts and insights on the way. He is really pouring his heart into this work.

His name is Florent Gorges, and he is one of the most eminent Nintendo historians. His labor of love is called the History of Nintendo. These books really have no equal in the world. Originally released in French (under the name "L'Histoire de Nintendo"), three volumes have already appeared, of which two have been translated into English.

If you enjoy reading this blog, I am sure you will love these books. Volume one of The History of Nintendo deals with the period from 1889 to the birth of the Game & Watch, volume two is fully dedicated to Game & Watch and volume three's topic is the Famicom / NES.

Florent was kind enough to participate in a little interview for beforemario. You can find this below, together with information on how to acquire his books.

Beforemario: Can you briefly introduce yourself?

Florent: Hi! My name is Florent Gorges, I'm a French guy who was born in a little town called Dijon (famous for wine and mustard) in March of 1979. When I was a high school student, I had the chance to live in Japan for one year as an exchange student. But because I loved Japan so much, I've ended up spending 6 years in this country, and I became a interpreter/translator at the age of 22. I started the research for The History of Nintendo in 2002, when I was living and working as a translator in the Niigata prefecture.

Florent at Nintendo's HQ in Kyoto

Beforemario: Why did you pick Nintendo as the subject for a book series?

Florent: I've always played video games since I was 4 or 5 years old. My first contact with "video games" where the Game & Watch (Parachute). Since then, I've played in game centers/arcades and in 1989, together with my brother and my sister I bought a NES. But in 1997, during my first stay in Japan, my Japanese host family told me that Nintendo was not only a famous video game maker. In fact, for my host family's grandfather, Nintendo was firstly a hanafuda company, since the 19th century! And I realised that we, foreigners, didn't know that. I found that interesting and I was curious to know how a little local playing card company based in Kyoto could become the leader of a high tech domain like video games. I'm not a Nintendo fan boy, but for me Nintendo has the most interesting and mysterious history from all gaming companies. The Nintendo "success story" is so fun and so rich that I wondered why nobody was researching it…

The History of Nintendo - Volume One (French and English edition)

Beforemario: When did you get the idea for the History of Nintendo books? And how long did it take to carry out all the research?

Florent: In 2002, I was searching for information about Nintendo's history, just for fun. But, I quickly became very surprised. Because the only thing I could find in the Western or Japanese gaming sites was: "1889 : birth of Nintendo. They produce traditional playing cards. 1980 : birth of LCD games Game & Watch". One century of history in only two sentences! I asked myself, "hey, how can they go from paper cards to LCD games and nothing betweens those two products? There is something wrong and strange". So I've started to investigate Nintendo's "forgotten" history. I've met some key people and collectors to help me, like Isao Yamazaki, maybe the biggest Nintendo collector in the world. It took me 6 years to write the first issue of The History of Nintendo.

Beforemario: What has been the response to the book so far? And did you receive any response from Nintendo?

Florent: Well, it's not an official book and Nintendo can't respond about it officially. During the writing of my book, of course, I've met a lot of Nintendo staff, almost all of them retired by now. I've received more than 40 orders for my books from Nintendo in Kyoto. I know that Mr. Iwata, Miyamoto, Aonuma, and even Mr.Yamauchi have my books on their desk. I know that some of them really appreciate them (although it's not in Japanese) but they can't give me their official opinion because it's not an official product.

The History of Nintendo - Volumes Two and Three

Beforemario: According to you, what is the significance of Nintendo's "toys and games" period from the 60s to the early 80s, from before the Famicom?

Florent: Before WWII, Mr.Yamauchi suffered from the bad image of the "playing cards" when he was young. Hanafuda and playing cards where often linked to mafia, yakuza and gambling. So, when he became Nintendo's boss at the age of 22, the first thing he wanted to do was changing the playing cards' image. That's why he bought the licence of the Disney's characters in 1959. Playing cards instantly became a game not only for adults but also for kids. Their reputation became more "acceptable" and playable for everybody. For me, toys and games are Nintendo's "DNA".

Some of the westerns gamers think that Nintendo betrayed the "gamers" with the Nintendo DS or the Nintendo Wii. They were very disappointed because of the "new direction of Nintendo" taken by Iwata since 2004 : the "casual gaming market". But those gamers are wrong. If you read my book, you'll understand that Nintendo, since more than 120 years, do "casual gaming". Is there something more casual than a board game or a playing card set? No! In fact, Nintendo betrayed their own philosophy and DNA after the SNES and during 15 years! That's the truth. In 2004, after the SNES, N64 and Game Cube, Nintendo and Iwata realised that they were going in the wrong direction since the 90's: high technology for the hardcore gamers market. They couldn't fight against huge companies like Microsoft or Sony. Iwata wanted, rightly, to return back to the real Nintendo DNA : "fun for everybody, for all the family".

Beforemario: Three History of Nintendo books are now published. What is next? How many more volumes have you planned?

Florent: Yes, in France I published three volumes. The first one was released in 2008. The third one is about the Famicom and the NES history. The fourth's volume will be about the Game Boy history. All the "boy" family will be inside this book: from the first Game Boy to the Game Boy Micro, as well as the Virtual Boy. But for the English market, the next one will be the translation of the Famicom/NES history book. It's really very different from what you read on the net. I'm sure you'll be very surprised because of the many incredible revelations and unknown facts… After that, the SNES history, the N64 history and so on. Well, about 7 or 8 volumes are expected. More than 2000 pages, only about Nintendo's history.

Beforemario: Where can people order your books?

Florent: If you can read French, go here: If you only read English, it's here: But only a few books have been translated yet into English, so try to improve your French! ^^

Beforemario: And finally, I have to ask the big question: your favorite Nintendo game ever?

Florent: Whoa, what a difficult question! My favourite Nintendo game is changing every day. Well, today, my answer is Turtle Bridge (Game & Watch).

[Update: more books by Florent can be found here:]


  1. Nice interview, great books. I have them all in French and now also the first 2 in English because my French is not so good. Best books about Nintendo you can get!

  2. I bought the English version of volume 1 when it came out for €19 ...but they seem to have up'ed the price of the English volumes to €30 now ...whilst the French versions are still €19 ...rubbing it in a little I think.