Skip to main content

Pac-Man creator worried about Brain Training claims

Wants to verify them.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani believes it's important to make sure that games like Nintendo's Brain Training series aren't based on poor science.

Speaking to Famitsu, partially translated by GameSpot, Iwatani said that next March he would be leaving Namco after 30 years in order to lecture full-time on game development - and the medium starts to reach a broader audience he's concerned about the validity of claims made by the games that took them there.

"Mental training games have become very popular lately," he points out. "[Tokyo Polytechnic University] has set up facilities to monitor brain activity so that we can thoroughly investigate the relationship between games and brain activation."

"It is necessary to verify that the claims are valid from a scientific viewpoint. As the impact of games on society grows, they will be subject to criticism," he told Famitsu.

Nintendo in particular has enjoyed enormous success with its Brain Training titles, several of which are available for the Nintendo DS in Japan - where millions of copies have been sold.

The games were inspired by Professor Kawashima, author of a series of books on the subject in Japan, who believes that a regimen of simple tasks performed daily can improve mental acuity over time.

Explaining his decision to leave Namco, Iwatani said that he was inspired to do it by the "passion" that young people have for games - something he experienced firsthand during a spell in 2004 when Namco and TPU put on a series of lectures on game planning.

Iwatani was so inspired that he went on to deliver more lectures - and now plans to do it full time. "I also realised how important teaching is," he says of that period in 2004. "So, when TPU told me they were beginning a new course on games, and asked me to become a full-time lecturer, I decided to do it."

Not least because, in Iwatani's view, training in the Japanese games industry "is on the verge of crisis".

"It will become very hard to train staff in-house, as was done in the past," he argues. "As a result, the educational institutions must follow through. However, Japan is far behind in the field of game education compared with the US, Europe, Korea, and China."

Having joined Namco in 1977, Iwatani came up with the idea of Pac-Man in 1980. The game was an instant success when it came out in May that year, and lead to countless sequels and derivatives.

Read this next