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New episode! Ex-Nintendo boss Reggie Fils-Aimé
Reggie talks about becoming a meme, becoming a muppet, his new book, and four of his favorite people to follow online.
Welcome to the Follow Friday newsletter! I’m your host, Eric Johnson.
Every week, I’ll share full transcripts of each segment from the newest episode of the Follow Friday podcast. This week’s guest is Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president and COO of Nintendo of America, who has just published a memoir titled Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.
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Reggie Fils-Aimé (Disrupting the Game): Becoming a meme, becoming a Muppet, video game skills
Former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé first became an internet meme before most people knew what memes were: At Nintendo's presentation at the gaming expo E3 2004, he turned heads by announcing, "My name is Reggie. I'm about kickin' ass, I'm about takin' names, and we're about makin' games."
"I received a message from my teenage son who told me, 'Dad, you're famous,'" Reggie says. "They weren't called memes at the time — these were Photoshopped images. He sent me these images of me blowing up a competitive console; me dressed up like Sylvester Stallone from one of his movies; me looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator."
Today on Follow Friday, Reggie shares the backstory of another press conference that made him even more internet-famous, and talks about his new book Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.
ERIC: Today on the show is Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president and COO of Nintendo of America, where he worked from 2003 to 2019. He's the author of the new memoir, Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo. I love that title.
You can find Reggie on Twitter @Reggie. And by the time this interview comes out, Disrupting the Game will be available wherever you buy books. Reggie, welcome to Follow Friday. It's good to speak with you again.
REGGIE: Absolutely. Good to see you again.
ERIC: First off, congrats on the book. Let's start by talking about Disrupting the Game. Who do you want to read this book and what do you want them to get out of it?
REGGIE: As we thought about the book, I really envisioned this being read by a very wide audience. Certainly, gaming fans will be excited about the book. They'll be excited for some of the inside stories I share about my time at Nintendo.
But also younger readers, people who are in high school, maybe beginning to think about college and their own personal journey. There are a lot of tidbits and a lot of perspectives on how to navigate that journey, and how I navigated that journey from a personal standpoint.
And I also think executives later in life thinking about career, career changes, and also thinking about how they want to best contribute beyond their day-to-day job will find the book inspiring as well. My hope is that we find a very wide reader base.
And in particular, because of the lessons and principles that I share that are timeless and could be applied to any industry, I really do believe that the audience will be quite broad.
ERIC: Well, this is an internet culture podcast. And I don't know if you know this, Reggie, but you are kind of internet famous. You have your own page on knowyourmeme.com. Let me read a quote from that here: "Most of his popularity has spawned from notable lines he has said during his E3 conferences," E3 being the big gaming expo, "as well as unpopularity from fans of the video game series Mother."
We don't need to get into that, but further down the page, it says this, "At E3 2007, while showcasing Nintendo's new fitness game, Wii Fit, Reggie spoke the phrase, 'My Body Is Ready.' That phrase has since become a popular caption used to express excitement at an upcoming or imminent event."
You kind of became a meme after you said this. Did you know when you said that this was going to become this whole running joke for video game fans online?
REGGIE: Candidly, no. Each of the statements I have made throughout my career at Nintendo, and arguably, I continue to make the internet react in my day to day life now, but each time, it wasn't a purposeful statement. It wasn't intended to become a meme. It was intended to make a point. It was intended to drive engagement with the broad video game fan base.
But I think because of my authenticity, because of my nature to have fun and to enjoy what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis, these statements have become memes and have taken on a life of themselves.
In particular, "My Body Is Ready," what fans may not understand is that when you're preparing for a big conference like this, you go through hours and hours of rehearsals. And rehearsals can get at times a little tedious, a little monotonous. I found that when we would be going through rehearsals, I would be trying out different statements, all trying to get a reaction.
And in that particular moment, Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto, arguably one of the greatest game creators of all time, was going to demo Wii Fit using me as the demo subject. During rehearsals, I was constantly trying to get a reaction from him, to get a laugh. And when I tried out "My Body Is Ready," he chuckled pretty loudly. So I knew I had a keeper.
That's how that line started. That's how it became part of that E3 presentation. It was very much just a way to get a reaction on stage.
ERIC: This may be a weird question, but are you a very online person, generally? Because if you weren't necessarily intending to go viral or make something into a meme, I wonder what that experience was like, of being told, "Hey, everyone is quoting this thing you said years ago at this press conference," finding out of that internet fame.
REGGIE: Well, I do spend, and historically have spent quite a bit of time online not only for my own personal learning, listening to podcasts, but also to understand just what's the vibe and where's the momentum on a particular topic.
Dating back to my very first E3 where I said, "My name is Reggie, I'm about kicking ass and taking names, and we're about making games," it was only after I had made that statement that I received a message from my teenage son who told me, at the time, "Dad, you're famous."
I had no idea what he was talking about, but he sent to me — they weren't called memes at the time — these were Photoshopped images. He sent me these images of me blowing up a competitive console; me dressed up like Sylvester Stallone from one of his movies; me looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator.
He forwarded all these to me. I wasn't seeing them until then. My communications team wasn't seeing them. So it really began the process at Nintendo of understanding what was the reaction to the messaging we were putting out and trying to get at that in real time. And even today, I see real-time feedback to my speeches, to my comments.
So I am aware of what's going on out there, but I'm not trying to be controversial. I'm not trying to make a point, but certainly, understanding where you are in the culture is something that any visible executive needs to do.