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Pac-Man Creator Iwatani's 'Cautionary Message For The Industry'

In a new interview, Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani is worried that "we'll lose our audience" if creators don't "focus on making games that people will remember a decade from now" instead of "maximizing profit."
In a new interview, Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani is worried that "we'll lose our audience" if creators don't "focus on making games that people will remember a decade from now" instead of "maximizing profit." The interview, conducted by Game Developer magazine editor in chief Brandon Sheffield, is live now on Gamasutra sister site GameCareerGuide. When asked what the inspiration for the incredible Pac-Man Championship Edition's design was, Iwatani said that he wanted to appeal to players, an described it as "very detailed, yet neat and approachable." He continued, "The reason I want to emphasize this is that starting last year or so, you've had this flood of very simple games on the iPhone and social networks and so forth. They're very 'easy' games, and by easy I mean easy to design and to pump out by the dozen. "I think more thought needs to go toward how games present themselves to the user, to how they can be made more fun." He added that his GDC 2011 presentation [GDC Vault video link], a retro postmortem of Pac-Man, "was a sort of cautionary message for the industry as a whole." As social and mobile game platforms improve, "Making games with this well-thought-out approach to design will help them become loved and fondly remembered for a longer time," said Iwatani. "When you look at games coming out today, it's doubtful that any of us will be talking about them in ten years' time. We have to focus on making games that people will remember a decade from now, or else we'll lose our audience, probably." When he looks around at the industry, he sees that many people are more focused on "maximizing profit, at the core of it." In his view, this is not the right approach for the game developers themselves. "I think that developers need to leave that sort of thing to the management, the specialists in that field, and think more about what games mean to them, and how they can contribute to that. I talked about accessible design, and that's something I bring up because I always think about how players are going to approach the game." Of course, he recognizes that developers can't function as pure artists -- as any developer of early arcade games, which focused on many of the same tenets as today's social and mobile titles, would. "Developers are creating a work, while publishers are creating a product out of that work," he said. However, he admits that these two halves must make a whole. "Really, both sides of the equation need to be functioning." However, he said, "Making 'products' isn't something developers should have to worry about -- they need to concentrate on making good games, on really pouring their souls into them." Said Iwatani, "One needs to consider what the player is looking for at all times. You can get the theme for a game by reflecting on that, and once you have a theme, you can start making a concept based on one or two keywords. You keep these two or so concept words in mind at all times as you design this or that part of the game. "If you run into a design aspect that's giving you trouble, you put it up to the main concept keywords you've come up with, and you keep it if it works and discard it if it doesn't. That's how you think about it. Developers need to ask themselves 'How do I want the player to think about this game?' They need to be able to say 'I want them to respond like this.' Answer that question with a simple word or sentence. That's important." The full interview, which also focuses on Iwatani's work in education, is live now on GameCareerGuide.

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