Reggie Fils-Aimé in a lecture hall

‘The Regginator’ Reflects on His Role Atop the Video Game Industry

In his new book—part management guide, part memoir—Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aimé ’83 offers life lessons

By Linda Copman

With $200 billion in annual revenue, video games top the global entertainment industry—and as president of Nintendo America, Reggie Fils-Aimé ’83 spent 16 years as one of its major players.

the cover of "Disrupting the Game"

Now retired, the CALS alum has released a combination memoir and management guide: Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.

“Crisply written and devoid of bombast,” says a Publishers Weekly review, “these business lessons are worth checking out for leaders of all stripes.”

In it, Fils-Aimé describes a winding path to becoming the unorthodox executive known to fans as “the Regginator”—growing up as the son of Haitian immigrants in New York City, studying applied economics and management in the Dyson School, and working at Procter & Gamble, Pizza Hut, and MTV Networks.

“I want the reader to understand that not every well-known executive comes from a life of privilege,” says Fils-Aimé, who grew up in the Bronx, which he notes is home to the poorest congressional district in the U.S.

Always an overachiever who craved a challenge, Fils-Aimé admits to reading the encyclopedia at age four, “for the fun of it.” In high school, he lettered in three sports: soccer, basketball, and track and field.

“I want to make an impact, I want to learn, and I want to have fun,” he observes. “When all three elements are not being met, I look for new opportunities.”

Reggie Fils-Aimé playing video games with Jimmy Fallon
Giving a Nintendo lesson to TV host Jimmy Fallon. (Photo provided)

After arriving at Nintendo, Fils-Aimé introduced himself to the gaming community at the global industry conference known as E3. It was 2004, and he was tasked with pitching the latest installment of the bestselling Legend of Zelda and launching a new handheld system, the Nintendo DS.

Memorably, he stepped out on the stage and proclaimed: “My name is Reggie. I’m about kicking ass. I’m about taking names. And we’re about making games!”

Reggie Fils-Aimé speaking in front of an image of Mario
On stage, backed up by beloved game character Mario. (Photo provided)

Nintendo would go on to sell 150 million DS systems and nearly 950 million games to run on them—and Fils-Aimé became a celebrity in his own right.

At the 2008 E3, he even coined his own nickname after defeating his VP of sales and marketing in a virtual sword fight, declaring: “That’s why they call me the Regginator!”

In a 2014 E3 skit, Fils-Aimé charmed audiences by playing a robotic version of himself: “Reggie Fils-A-Mech,” who infiltrated Nintendo’s offices seeking company secrets, and disintegrated colleagues with laser beams shot out of his eyes.

Fils-Aimé broke barriers in other ways, too—and tried to ensure that others had the same chance. As a person of color in the gaming industry, he worked hard to increase diversity, especially in senior management.

Reggie Fils-Aimé with laser beams shooting out of his eyes
The fearsome robot “Fils-A-Mech.” (Photo provided)

“Being ‘different’ causes a reaction,” he observes in his memoir. “Gender, orientation, race, disability … the list is long. You can’t ignore or avoid this reaction. Instead, lean into it. Don’t hide, deny, or moderate who you are. Authenticity earns respect. So be your authentic self.”

At Nintendo, Fils-Aimé personally reviewed every job candidate at the vice-president level and above.

As he recalls: “If I saw too much commonality in the lead candidates—same background, same gender, same work experience—I challenged the hiring manager to broaden the candidate pool.”

Don’t hide, deny, or moderate who you are. Authenticity earns respect. So be your authentic self.

Since retiring from the company in 2019, Fils-Aimé (who lives with his family in a Seattle suburb) has worked with a nonprofit that aims to foster economic opportunity and improve education in Washington State.

He also supports a nonprofit in New York City that uses games to teach critical thinking and writing skills to underserved youth, and has volunteered for several Cornell organizations, including the University Council and the CALS Dean’s Advisory Council.

Reggie Fils-Aimé talking to students
Meeting with an organizational behavior class on the Hill. (Photo by Simon Wheeler for Cornell University)

And what’s his favorite video game these days? Tunic, in which players explore, fight enemies, and solve puzzles.

“You play as this foxlike character, so visually the game is quite whimsical,” Fils-Aimé explains. “But the charming visuals belie a game that is brutally hard. I like the challenge.”

Top image: Fils-Aimé giving a talk as part of the Dyson School’s Leader in Residence program in fall 2019. (Photo by Simon Wheeler for Cornell University)

Published June 17, 2022


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