Is that story about the pizza really true?
Iwatani: Well, it’s half true. In Japanese the character for mouth (kuchi) is a square shape. It’s not circular like the pizza, but I decided to round it out. There was the temptation to make the Pac Man shape less simple. While I was designing this game, someone suggested we add eyes. But we eventually discarded that idea because once we added eyes, we would want to add glasses and maybe a moustache. There would just be no end to it.
I designed Pac-Man to be the simplest character possible, without any features such as eyes or limbs. Rather than defining the image of Pac-Man for the player, I wanted to leave that to each player’s imagination.
Food is the other part of the basic concept. In my initial design I had put the player in the midst of food all over the screen. As I thought about it I realised the player wouldn’t know exactly what to do: the purpose of the game would be obscure. So I created a maze and put the food in it. Then whoever played the game would have some structure by moving through the maze. The Japanese have a slang word - paku paku - they use to describe the motion of the mouth opening and closing while one eats. The name Pac Man came from that word.