The Null Device
Ophelia Dahl recounts having Roald Dahl as a father, and discusses the first draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
The plot was completely different; there were 10 children, not five, all of them with names like Herpes Trout, and each child was more disgusting than the last, characterised by some terrible human flaw that would lead to their downfall. The first draft involved a burglary at Wonka's house, which Charlie foiled and was thus granted a lifetime's supply of chocolate. The other drafts get closer and closer to the published version. Why, I wondered, had he never told us about Herpes Trout, or Elvira Entwistle? They were cast-offs, thrown away, not even worth mentioning during supper, but for me it was like discovering lost siblings.
A Cornell University study has demonstrated that men who feel their masculinity threatened overcompensate by adopting hypermasculine stances such as homophobia, support for the Iraq war, and a desire to buy a SUV:
Willer administered a gender identity survey to a sample of male and female Cornell undergraduates in the fall of 2004. Participants were randomly assigned to receive feedback that their responses indicated either a masculine or a feminine identity. While women's responses were unchanged regardless of the feedback they received, men's reactions "were strongly affected by this feedback," Willer said.
He questioned subjects about their political attitudes, including how they felt about a same-sex marriage ban and their support for President Bush's handling of the Iraq War. "I created composites from subjects' answers to these and other questions," he said. "I also gave subjects a car-buying vignette, presented as part of a study of purchasing a new car."With this in mind, perhaps SUV manufacturers will start running ads, with no brand names on them, impugning their audience's masculinity. I can see them now: "Hey you," a crew-cut, neckless drill-sergeant type shouts from the TV, "you call yourself a man? You ain't a man, you're a big girl's blouse!" Two ads later, a spot for the Hummer or the latest ultra-macho urban assault vehicle appears. Within the next week, sales go through the roof as office drones compensate for their perceived emasculation.
Meanwhile the researchers in question next intend to measure respondents' testosterone levels and also test their attitudes to violence against women.
In fact, Iwatani acknowledges that, while a eureka moment for the annals, that event represents the official birth of Pac-Man: "The whole thing actually started with me walking around games arcades watching how many boys were playing and the fact that all the machines were about killing aliens, tanks or people. Girls were simply not interested, and I suddenly had a motivation for my work: I wanted game centres to shed this rather dark, sinister image, and it seemed to me that the way to raise the atmosphere of a place is to entice girls to come in. The whole purpose of Pac-Man was to target women and couples, and get a different type of player involved."
"So there I was, wondering what sort of things women would look for in a video game. I sat in cafés and listened to what they were talking about: mostly it was fashion and boyfriends. Neither of those was really the stuff of a good video game. Then they started talking about food -- about cakes and sweets and fruit -- and it hit me: that food and eating would be the thing to concentrate on to get the girls interested."
It may have been aimed at girls, but boys converted to it immediately: Pac-Man's most interesting revelation was gamers' affinity to living things. And that spark of inspiration has taken the industry from a 2-D yellow disc through Mario, and on to a 3-D Lara Croft.
Strangely, that is exactly how Namco saw his achievement: as just a game. Pac-Man, quite apart from the lucrative sequels Ms Pac-Man and Pac-Land, made the company more than $100 million. Iwatani was merely promoted to supervisor level, and still lives in a house too small to accommodate a Pac-Man arcade cabinet.