Masaya Nakamura, whose company created the arcade-game character Pac-Man, helped shape the pastimes of Japanese and American children from the days of toy guns and wooden rides to the age of home consoles and computer graphics.
His company Namco—an acronym of Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company—produced videogames that fueled the arcade game boom of the 1980s.
He died on Jan. 22. He was 91.
Masaya Nakamura was born on Dec. 24, 1925, in the Kanda area of Tokyo. After graduating from the shipbuilding department of what is now Yokohama National University in 1948, he joined his father selling and repairing air guns at the Nihombashi Takashimaya department store in Tokyo. It was there he met his future wife, Mitsuko. In a 1996 newspaper column he said friends described her as “the greatest and best thing he received from all his dealings with department stores.”
In 1955, Mr. Nakamura founded his own company and put two coin-operated rocking horse rides on the roof of a department store in Yokohama. He eventually expanded to other department stores and opened a factory to develop and manufacture rides.
“Kids could ride once for ¥5 [about a nickel], but sales wouldn’t rise if they just rode once,” he said in a magazine interview in 2007. “If you said a little something like ’What a cute boy!’ to the mother, she would let the child ride one more time. Then everyone was happy: the child who got to ride one more time, the mom who was praised for her child, and I, who got more sales.”