Pac-Man made for women, says creator

The classic arcade game Pac-Man, that was originally released 30 years ago on May 22nd 1980, was designed to attract women and couples to the male dominated arcades of the time, while the character himself was inspired by pizza, according to excerpts of an interview with the game’s creator, Toru Iwatani.

In the excerpts from the upcoming book “Replay – The History of Video Games” by Tristian Donovan, which was recently published by EuroGamer, the creator begins by explaining how he joined Namco. Iwatana joined Namco, who at the time only made “electric and mechanical games like flipper pinball”, in 1977 to make pinball machines. However, the Japanese video game designer ended up creating the company’s very first video game – a pinball-style game called “Gee Bee”.

However, from April 1979 Iwatani began work on “Pakkuman” with a nine-man team as a game designed to attract women to arcades.

Asked by Donovan why he felt “the need to create a game to attract a female audience”, Iwatani replied that as it was before the time of the home consoles, the only place to play video games was in arcades. “Most arcade videogames of the time were violent and focused on the male player,” he said, “so the game-centres became places frequented mainly by men.”

Iwatani then goes on to say how they believed that making a game that can “appeal to women and thus to couples” that they could make the “game-centres desirable places to go on a date.”

But that isn’t the only reason Iwatani decided not to include violence. “I grew up watching Disney cartoons as well as Japanese and manga so I was influenced by the philosophy of those creators and designers. Also, I wanted children to play my games, so it never even crossed my mind to use violence in my designs.”

Donovan then goes on to ask Iwatani about the inspiration behind the Pac-Man character. The answer, which has been stated before, is a pizza with a missing slice. “When I imagined what women enjoy, the image of them eating cakes and desserts came to mind,” the creator said, “so I used “eating” as a keyword.” Iwatani then came across an image of a pizza with a slice missing, triggering a “eureka moment”.

Released during a time when rival classic “Space Invaders” was hugely popular, “Pakkuman” got a mediocre reception on its release in Japan on May 22nd 1980. “We didn’t get the kind of review other games did,” he said, “I guess Pac-Man didn’t have the sensational image.”

However, distributed to the United States later that year under the new name of “Pac-Man” the game became a massive hit. “I myself could not imagine that it would be loved by so many people and such an international hit.”

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