Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Of Pizzas & Pac-Men

I visited Fornino, the new wood-fired pizza joint in tha 'hood today to multitask:
1) catching up with a pal,
2) downing some pie and
3) rooting for the NY Marathon stragglers tripping down the road just ahead of the sweeper busses, since I figure I'd be back there with 'em ... that is, of course, only if a spell of insanity inexplicably swept over my feeble mind and inspired me to sign up for such misery.

(And if you've ever timed your jog, you can dream of how you might perform in a marathon using this handy tool: Marathon Time Calculator.)

But back to the pizza: Fornino's crust was loverly, and topping offerings a delight. J and I decided on the large "Sicilian," a breath-endangering concoction of anchovies, capers, onions, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, calamata olives and oregano (freshly clipped from the backyard garden — the chef stopped by our table specifically for the purpose of talking up his home-grown greens).

The sauce was light, fresh and thin. It skated, weightless, across the bubbly surface of the crisp crust. I wondered if it shouldn't have had more salt, but with anchovies, olives and capers, a salted sauce would have been unbearable. I wonder, then, do they custom-sauce the slice based on the toppings? I will need to make a return visit to explore, but at a reasonable $16 for our large, fully loaded gourmet pie, I think I can happily dig up both cash and appetite.



In a similar vein, while looking for Pac-Man ghost images this evening to help me design a T-shirt, I discovered that Pac-Man game designer Toru Iwatani was an inspired pizza fan (and an advocate for pretty-color-lovin' ladies everywhere), as well.

Here's my favorite section:

INTERVIEWER: What was the thinking behind the design of Pac Man?

IWATANI: First of all, the kanji word "taberu," to eat, came to mind. Game design, you see, often begins with words. I started playing with the word, making sketches in my notebook. All the computer games available at the time were of the violent type - war games and space invader types. There were no games that everyone could enjoy, and especially none for women. I wanted to come up with a "comical" game women could enjoy. The story I like to tell about the origin of Pac Man is that one lunchtime I was quite hungry and I ordered a whole pizza. I helped myself to a wedge and what was left was the idea for the Pac Man shape.

INTERVIEWER: 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. 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.

INTERVIEWER: Once you decided Pac Man would be a game of food and eating, what was the next step?

IWATANI: Well, there's not much entertainment in a game of eating, so we decided to create enemies to inject a little excitement and tension. The player had to fight the enemies to get the food. And each of the enemies has its own character. The enemies are four little ghost-shaped monsters, each of them a different colour - blue, yellow, pink and red. I used four different colours mostly to please the women who play - I thought they would like the pretty colours.




11.07.2004

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