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The history of how Pac-Man encouraged women to pursue game dev

February 5, 2019 | By Emma Kidwell




Some recordings from the game history panel held at MAGfest 2019 are now available for the public to enjoy. This panel was part of the Music and Gaming Educational Symposium (MAGES) educational track.

These videos could be useful for developers interested in learning the history behind some of their favorite games, genres, and consoles.

It's easy to forget how young the medium actually is, and the playlist of 11 videos covers topics ranging from the history of The Sims all the way to Papers, Please and fan-created zines. 

The video showcased above tackles Pac-Man and women in early video games, where the panelist, Anne Ladyem McDivitt discusses how the concept of the game was actually born to fix the problem of arcade centers being perceived as dark and seedy environments.

According to McDivitt, Toru Iwatani (the developer behind Pac-Man) made the game because new women didn't want to be pursued anymore, they wanted to be the pursuers. So he thought that being able to get the pellet and chase after the ghosts would appeal to more modern women. 

The panelist goes on to share a direct quote by Iwatani, who explains that "around the time that we launched Pac-Man, video game arcades were filled with games were you shot aliens. It seemed very dark. It was for men."

"I realized that if women and couples were going to come to game centers, they had to be cheerful places. So I decided to theme the game around eating dinner." With Pac-Man, Iwatani wanted to create a game that would change the face of an arcade.

McDivitt then poses the question: "Why does the game matter?" It had a massive cultural impact, but it also launched a new genre and encouraged more women to become involved in the development of games, and more women went into arcades to play. 

The rest of the videos are really informative and worth a watch so be sure to check them all out here.



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