The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf

It's Vlad's time of year

Vlad was, I think, very concerned with ethics. He liked power too, but he could have ruled with an iron fist and not poured a fortune into building churches the way he did. As I understand it, he felt it was his duty to protect Europe's Christianity from the oncoming tide of Islam, though he by no means inflicted his terrors solely on the Turks -- he inflicted them on anyone and everyone he didn't like, including fellow Romanians if I am remembering correctly (because Vlad didn't run the whole show, just the Romanian principality of Wallachia, which is next door to Transylvania, so close enough, Bram). And he realized, because he wasn't stupid, that he was not a very good Christian himself, so he paid God off with lots and lots of churches. There were certainly plenty of churchmen willing to tell him that God was cool with this arrangement. Not all of them, though. There's a story I like about Vlad showing a couple of monks one of his "forests" of impaled people and asking them whether they thought God approved of his work. One monk said yes, the other no -- with the understanding that Vlad would have him impaled too for saying it. But before Vlad gave the order, he let the condemned man speak his piece. It's an odd little story that shows the workings of some kind of conscience.

But let's not talk about that, let's talk about something nicer, OK? Specifically, Pac-Man. I've been reading a lot about Pac-Man lately, and one thing I find particularly interesting is that from the beginning, the game was designed to appeal to women and girls. The designer, a Japanese kid named Toru Iwatani, had noticed that they didn't play video games much, and he wanted to come up with a game with more universal appeal. Popular at the time were games like Space Invaders with lots of shooting, and Iwatani made a conscious decision to design a game with less violence -- one in which the goal was more to avoid enemies than to conquer them. And the enemies themselves were designed to be cute, with their bright colors and expressive eyes. Seriously, tell me these guys aren't kawaii as hell:

I was born in the late seventies, and some of my earliest memories are of Pac-Man, because we had an Atari 2600 and my father played it obsessively. We had Space Invaders too, and I clearly remember that Space Invaders inspired me with an anxiety that Pac-Man did not. The idea of plugging away at hostile creatures that came slowly closer and closer, until they came closer and closer FAST and your meager protection crumbled and you died, was not an idea I enjoyed. (In fact, it still isn't.) Pac-Man also got faster and faster until you died, but it didn't make me anxious in the same way. I didn't know at the time, of course, that this was the result of a series of deliberate choices on the part of the designer. He probably didn't have anxiety-prone American toddlers in mind when he made those choices, but I felt their effect. And so did many other girls and women, who pumped quarters into Pac-Man games in unprecedented numbers, leading of course to the development of Ms. Pac-Man, a game very obviously designed to appeal to them -- and widely considered superior to the original for its more challenging gameplay.

And Pac-Man changed video games forever, of course, and there's a Pac-Man game in the Smithsonian and everything, so it's kind of surprising you don't hear this point made more often -- that Pac-Man is a great game in large part because its designer started by asking himself, How can we include girls and women? Three out of the four Pac-Man ghosts are pastel, for God's sake, but you never hear this remarked upon: it's just the way Pac-Man is. This obviously feminine characteristic is just the way the game is. It's when femaleness makes itself impossible to ignore that people start getting angry, but the thing is, the femaleness has always been there, you just weren't paying attention. All those times an adorable pastel-pink ghost ended you, in the game about eating fruit and avoiding conflict, you weren't paying attention.
Tags: my childhood, stix, teethfamily, vlad dracula
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