Iwatani说道：“你们说的是‘munch munch’，而我们说的是‘puck puck’。所以，我不觉得那个是适合美国人的名字，这是个完全日本化的名字！”
A Real Ladies Pac-Man: How Namco’s Yellow Dot Won Over Female Gamers
It’s easy to look back at Pac-Man — a game in which a yellow circle eats dots in a maze and chases ghosts around — as some kind of strange fever dream, coming from the same weird mindset in Japanese game development that created a world where a fat plumber eats mushrooms and jumps on turtles. The truth, though, is that every minuscule detail that went into the making of the original Pac-Man was laser focused on just one thing: attracting women.
Japanese game centers in 1979 were dank, smelly dens of vice just for adolescent boys, a place only the bravest girls dared enter. The air reeked of cheap cigarette smoke, and all of the loud, flashy games catered to one specific theme: violence, be it against aliens, tanks, or — on some of the stranger, lower budget games — unidentifiable blobs of color.
Designer Toru Iwatani, a man not interested in video games so much as designing things that make people smile, wanted to brighten up the atmosphere inside the arcades. He wanted to turn the man caves into a place where not only might a guy bring his girlfriend on a date but, Heaven forbid, said girlfriend might even come back to on her own.
Iwatani was hired at Namco, a relatively small amusement company, to lead the design efforts of its new video game division in 1977. A fan of the simple, fun games that Atari was creating in the U.S., Iwatani’s first games at Namco were variations on one of his favorites, Breakout, a simple ball-and-paddle game that was anything but violent (unless you happened to be a colorful tile apologist). The games did well, and their charming graphics — particularly the little ghosts in his third game, Cutie Q — were certainly inspiring smiles, but none of them were particularly inspired or captivating enough to change the arcades in any meaningful way.
In 1979, trying to tap into the female mind and come up with an irresistible concept for his next game, Iwatani spent a lot of time listening to women to find out what they were interested in. Sometimes he’d ask them directly, other times he’d secretly listen in on their conversations with each other, trying to see what they discussed when no boys were around. Mostly they talked about romance and fashion, he says — neither of which were particularly compelling gameplay concepts — but a eureka moment came when he heard two ladies talking about eating desserts. Girls, he thought, love eating.
Game design, as Iwatani once said, often begins with something as simple as a word. He focused on the kanji word “taberu” — “to eat,” roughly — and started sketching ideas in his notebook, coming up with a game that dessert-loving ladies couldn’t help but play. This was the genesis of Pac-Man, and the final product, though loved almost equally between the two sexes, was custom tailored to women in just about every way, as this list will show.
Taberu. To eat. Eating is at the very core of Pac-Man. It is the player’s main function and, indeed, the only thing the player can ever do in the game, other than die. Pac-Man can eat the dots on the screens, the special “power cookies” in the corners, ghosts, keys, bells, characters from other Namco games, and occasionally, some actual fruit.
“Girls love to eat desserts. Munch, munch, munch. My wife often eats sweets, and so she sometimes looks like this,” Iwatani said at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, puffing out his cheeks and extending his arms to mime a fat person.
The game’s named after the sound of eating. Pac-Man — or Puck-Man, as it was originally named — is derived from “pakupaku,” which would roughly mean something like “munch munch” in English. The name worked well in Japan, but Iwatani didn’t think it made much sense to English speakers.
“You say ‘munch munch,’ we say ‘puck puck,’” Iwatani said.”I didn’t think that was an American name at all, it was a Japanese name!”
Even Pac-Man himself is modeled after food. As the story goes, the character design for Pac-Man came when Iwatani noticed that a whole pizza, missing one slice, resembled a mouth. Iwatani sketched the shape in his notebook and, with hardly any tweaking at all, Pac-Man was born.
2. The Hero
Pac-Man would be Iwatani’s biggest project to date (the game ultimately took over a year and a half to develop, whereas his prior three games all shipped in a two-year span), and he used that time to employ every trick he could to captivate females.
Women, he felt, were not as compelled by a simple, functional on-screen avatar as men might be. In order for his game to have any staying power, he had to have a true star at the center of it, a memorable character with well-defined traits and a unique appearance.
Looking at his simple pizza-inspired mouth shape, Iwatani envisioned a character simple in nature. Though he has a heart of gold and wants to do the right thing, he — like a puppy — is motivated by food, and will eat just about anything that is put in front of him.
“He’s an uncontrollable eater,” Iwatani tells us. “He would eat pretty much everything his path.”
Strange, maybe, but to Iwatani the character was also a cool, mysterious guy, and he kept that mystique by keeping the character simple, letting the player’s imagination fill in the details. Despite some reports to the contrary, Pac-Man’s simple appearance on screen is not due to technical limitations, it’s intentional.
“There were requests [from Iwatani's boss] to add eyes and eyebrows and a nose to him, but putting those on the character makes him odd and uncool, so I rejected them,” he says.
Of course, no Pac-Man is an island, so Iwatani gave him a fun supporting cast.
3. The Ghost Monsters
The aspect of Pac-Man that took the most planning and a lot of tireless work, the piece of the puzzle that Iwatani feels was the most important, is something that most casual players will never notice until it’s pointed out to them. Pac-Man’s adversaries, the four brightly-colored ghost monsters, all have unique personalities.
Each ghost carried himself differently in the maze. Each one had a distinct, programmed personality that Iwatani pored tireless hours into designing and tweaking. Most who haven’t studied the game’s intricacies don’t realize that the four ghosts are not constantly chasing Pac-Man: they all have their own patterns, based on their personality types. If they didn’t, they would just end up following Pac-Man around in a group, making the game a bore.
Blinky, the red ghost, is laser-focused, and is the only ghost that actually chases Pac-Man around at all times. He always takes the shortest route available between himself and the player, will not stop chasing you once he’s on your trail, and is so determined that he will, later in the game, actually run faster than the other three ghosts.
Pinky, the pink ghost, is more of a tactical guy. Rather than waste energy in a footrace, he will try to ambush Pac-Man from the front, often using Blinky’s chasing to his advantage. If you’ve ever died in Pac-Man because two ghosts sandwiched you together on either side — and you have — you were the victim of Pinky’s scheme.
Inky, the cyan ghost, is unpredictable, the wildcard of the group. He wanders around the board, indecisive, not necessarily pursuing Pac-Man. But when he catches the hero’s scent, he will often chase him, randomly taking on the behavior of either Blinky or Pinky, making him hard to read.
And then there’s Clyde. Clyde is an idiot, and runs around carelessly in what is more or less a random pattern. If Clyde kills you, you only have yourself to blame.
Ask anyone who has played the game more than once if they know the names of the enemies, and chances are they’ll remember most of them (though most will probably fumble and throw one or two of Snow White’s dwarven friends in the mix).
They may be the antagonists of Pac-Man’s journey, and friendly they are not, but they’re also cute enough for someone with little arcade experience — like the women Iwatani was after — to find approachable, if not downright endearing. Much more so than the spaceships and tanks of the traditional arcade games of the time, anyway.
The design of the ghosts was modeled after Q-taro, a comic book and cartoon series that Iwatani grew up with, about a mischievous but friendly ghost who liked to scare people and steal their food. The series was popular in Japan, and players would likely make the connection (either directly or subconsciously) between the ghosts in Pac-Man and the cartoon character they were comfortable with, making the game approachable even to the most skittish newbie.
4. Glitz and Glamour
Just about all of the visual elements of the game are tailored to what Iwatani thought women would like to see. The maze the game takes place in is meant to resemble neon lights. The food (the real food) Pac-Man eats are sweet fruits. Even the decision to make the ghosts different colors was a decision made with ladies in mind, though ironically this decision was nearly overruled by Iwatani’s female boss.
According to Iwatani, his supervisor at the time — an elderly woman, whom he otherwise describes as a good manager — was confused by the different colors of the ghosts, wondering if perhaps one color might have indicated an ally as opposed to an enemy. She ordered Iwatani to color all the ghosts red, so it was obvious they were all out to get you.
Iwatani — a stubborn guy, for someone so interested in making others happy — sent out a questionnaire to all of the employees at Namco asking if they preferred the ghosts to be all red or multi-colored. He says the results were fifty to zero in favor of multiple colors. An exaggeration perhaps, but the scheme worked, and he was never bothered about their colors again.
The game also took some tricks from Hollywood to help further Iwatani’s cause. What other game started by introducing its cast of characters? Indeed, what other game had a cast of characters?
Then, of course, there are the cinematic scenes — also an industry first. In-between levels Pac-Man and the ghost monsters would put on a little show and chase each other around in practically Vaudevillian comedy routines inspired by classic Tom & Jerry cartoons, making the characters that much more endearing not only to those playing, but perhaps to their girlfriends watching over their shoulders as well.
Finally, the true art of Pac-Man — the real genius of its design, and the component that was most instrumental in its success — was its ability to make the player feel empowered.
Before Pac-Man, a video game’s rules were pretty much set in stone, and they were always stacked against you. In Space Invaders, your ship always fired at the same agonizingly slow rate, and dodged bullets at a constant speed. The paddle in Breakout was always the same size. The ship in Namco’s own Galaxian never got more powerful.
Games before Pac-Man pretty much followed the same pattern: establish the rules, and then relentlessly challenge the player with harder and harder stages until it’s game over.
Iwatani knew this kind of game would not give him the audience he desired, so he thought about what would make his players feel good, and invented an idea that would be used in just about every video game made afterward: the power-up.
In each of the four corners of each stage was a dot larger than all of the others. When eaten, Pac-Man would gain the ability to turn around and eat the ghosts, turning what used to be his predators into just another snack. Not only was this a fun concept, it also caused a break in the constant tension of being hounded, and allowed the player to relax and regain her composure.
Certainly games before it had downtime — the transitions in-between levels provided much-needed breaks — but the genius of Iwatani’s power pellets was putting the player in control of these moments. The ghosts may be out to get you, but an escape — albeit a temporary one — is easily obtainable.
There were other ways he helped the player relax too. Tunnels on either side of the maze not only provided a quick escape, they also slowed down the ghosts, allowing a temporary reprieve. He also designed breaks in the enemy’s attack patterns: occasionally, even if they were so close to Pac-Man they could taste him, the enemies would unanimously decide to at once break away and retreat to the four corners of the maze.
This not only gave the player some time to breathe and rethink her strategies, it also created some exciting near-fatal escapes, when Pac-Man would be facing certain doom only to find that his predator had been compelled at the very last second to turn the other way. Most players will die thinking that this was unintentional, that the game’s technology limitations made the enemies “stupid,” but this behavior was painstakingly planned by Iwatani to make the player smile.
“My motive was to make the player happy,” he said. “I created this design with all the love I had for the player.” (Source: 1UP)