Up. Up. Down. Down. Left. Right. Left. Right. B. A. Start. It’s the most famous sequence of button pushes in video game history, and its creator, Kazuhisa Hashimoto, has died. He was 79.
His death was first announced on Twitter by his friend Yuji Takenouchi, a sound designer on games including Dark Souls. Konami, the Japanese publisher which employed Hashimoto, offered condolences on Twitter as well.
“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Kazuhisa Hashimoto, a deeply talented producer who first introduced the world to the ‘Konami Code,'” Konami said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with Hashimoto-San’s family and friends at this time. Rest In Peace.”
The Konami Code was first implemented in shooting game Gradius in 1986, a game that was famous for its difficulty. Hashimoto was responsible for converting the game from arcade to the Nintendo Entertainment System console, but found the game too hard to beat, so he created the code to give himself more lives. When the game finally shipped to homes, it turned out he forgot to remove the code altogether.
The code was made famous by the also-notoriously-difficult 1988 shooter game Contra, where the Konami code gave players 30 lives. Contra and Gradius were both arcade games, which means their difficult gameplay was designed to pull quarters out of pockets. The home console experience didn’t exactly offer an easier experience.
Hashimoto’s sequence made it into numerous other Konami games, and countless other games have included it as a cheat or hidden surprise (called Easter eggs). There are too many to list, but most recently, Fortnite’s black hole event last year gave you a shooting game once you inputted the code.
The code’s impact extends beyond gaming. It’s become a common code to find Easter eggs and other tricks on websites like BuzzFeed and Google. It is the top phrase explained in Vox’s explainer for “Easter eggs.” The code has been mentioned in various films and TV shows. In 2009, the code would cause ESPN’s website to explode with ponies and unicorns. Even the Bank of Canada got in on the fun.
It was more than a video game cheat code. It became a meme among anyone involved with computer software and information technology.
The code’s original purpose was to help a player win. Cheat codes were an early solution to assist players to the still-new medium of video games. It was a catalyst for design decisions on accessibility, and a turning point in how to translate success at the arcades to the home games market today.
Knowing the code meant you were armed with powerful information. There was no commercial Internet in the 1980s. To know the code, you had to know someone who knew, or at least subscribed to a print magazine that told you how to do it.
Without Hashimoto’s code, this reporter would not have been able to beat Contra with his father, a cherished memory.
Thanks to Hashimoto, it’s now standard practice and worth the effort to punch in his famous sequence of buttons – you never know what you’re going to get. More than 30 years later, it’s the code that keeps on giving.