Pac-Man is one the earliest examples of an interactive flat landscape—a maze, in this case—in a computer game. At the time of its genesis, the most popular arcade games were shooter games, like Space Invaders and Asteroids. Iwatani wanted to develop a nonviolent game for the teenage couples and groups that were beginning to frequent arcades in addition to boys. While eating pizza for lunch one day he had a vision of his character—a giant yellow circle with a wedge removed for a mouth. In creating the colorful ghosts that are Pac-Man’s nemeses, Iwatani chose cuteness over scariness, hoping to appeal to female players. The player controls Pac-Man with a joystick, directing him to eat all of the dots in the maze while eluding the ghosts, who can end his life. If he succeeds, he moves up a level. Eating special power pellets gives Pac-Man the ability to attack the ghosts, and by eating transformed ghosts, assorted fruits, and other objects the player can gain bonus points. Eating to gain power, Iwatani has said, was a concept he borrowed from Popeye.
Gallery label from Applied Design, March 2, 2013–January 31, 2014.