In 2007, Nintendo fan Corey Bunnell dreamt of moving to Japan and working with the company. Fast forward 10 years, and Bunnell has fulfilled that very hope, landing a job as a programmer on developer team for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
One astute Reddit user, Tizzlefix, noticed an English name in the game's end credits. This, of course, was Corey Bunnell, which stood out amongst the majority of Japanese names credited. While it isn't unlikely that a developer, programmer, or artist that isn't Japanese would work with Nintendo, it's most common to see non-Japanese names appearing in translation or marketing areas of game development, design, and publishing. But Bunnell shows up in ""Wildlife Programming" for Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Motivated to find out just how Bunnell ended up working on the first open world Zelda game, Tizzlefix searched for his name on Google, and the intriguing story began to unfold. A forum on the Translators Cafe website shows Bunnell asking for advice on relocating to Japan and expressing his desire to work with Nintendo.
Shared on October 7, 2007, the post features Bunnell mentioning that he'd just graduated high school, during which he spent five months in Japan as an exchange student. Due to financial constraints at his local universities that prevented Bunnell from receiving aid, he set his sights on Japan to attend a two-year language school.
He then detailed his plans post-relocation, and that his ultimate fantasy job would be to work for Nintendo, the successful company that just doubled production of the Switch console.
"My dream is to live in Japan and work for Nintendo as a game designer. I realize this is a very large goal but it has been my dream since I first played Mario. I need help figuring out how to achieve this goal. I know I would need to [go to] a game design school of some sort, and also get my Japanese to a level where I can speak and write professionally."
When the original Reddit post gained additional attention, many pitched in to piece together the stepping stones toward Bunnell's ultimate destination: making the dev team on Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game that Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan calls "a masterpiece." Apparent investigation led to a page on the Kyoto Report website, which is a database that documents Nintendo titles and personnel.
The page describes Bunnell as a "non-native of Japan who moved in pursuit of a career in the game industry" who attended Ritsumeikan University, a private university in Kyoto, Japan. Additionally, it mentions that Bunnell joined the Nintendo team in 2014, "initially working as a Computer Programmer for the Entertainment Analysis & Development Division." Below is a video of Bunnell during his final year at Ritsumeikan University, discussing what it's like to study there.
Eventually, Bunnell rose up the ranks and found his niche, landing a job on Breath of the Wild in the Wildlife Programming sub-section of the dev team along with Shogo Kihara. Stories like Bunnell's are not only quite impressive, they're also inspiring. They may motivate others who dream of working in the games industry to seek out opportunities for internships or a design/development program, like the ARK: Survival Evolved mod program that allows rising modders a chance to create content for a future game.
Though the industry can be difficult to break into, and even more so to navigate once one is in, hearing that Bunnell fulfilled his dream is likely enough to put a smile on any gamer's face and push them toward goals of their own.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available now for the Nintendo Switch and the Wii U.