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PacMan is one of the most beloved arcade and online games of all time. It was actually made in the 1980s on May 22 and the popularity has continued until today. Arcades used to be packed to the gills with tons of people who wanted to play Pacman. Ms. Pacman was also a hit. Some people really liked Pacman, but loved Ms. Pacman and others loved them both. I know that if you told them in 1980 that you would be able to play PacMan for free anytime they wanted too online in the future they would have never believed you.
Pac-Man: An 80s Icon Revisited
Back in the 80s, May 29, 1980 to be exact, Namco, a popular Japanese computer software firm gave birth to a video game called Pac-Man. The video game became an instant success in Japan because of its immense popularity across all ages and gender. On October 10, 1980, the game was introduced in the U.S through Midway which acquired the license to market it. Just like in Japan, the game was widely accepted by the U.S. market and has since been a very popular video game not only in these countries but also in other parts of the world.
Toru Iwatani, a Namco employee along with four others (an engineer, a programmer, a package designer, and a music writer/composer) comprise the team that is credited for this popular game. A self-taught individual, Iwatani excelled in graphic and visual design particularly in the game design niche. He actually got the inspiration for the Pac-Man icon from a Japanese character “Kichu” which means mouth. Although square in shape, Iwatani went on to simplify the character and so he came up with a round shaped icon for Pac-Man. Pac-Man almost had a pair of eyes but his creators eventually decided against it. The reason? Iwatani narrated in one interview that once the eyes are there, a host of other add-ons would follow suit – a pair of glasses, a moustache, and what have you. It would have run against the original idea of a simple design. Incidentally, Iwatani first thought of naming it “Pakku-Man” which (in Japanese) meant eating by snapping. The original name later evolved from Puck-Man to Pac-Man specifically for the U.S. market. The change was also introduced to avoid misuse of the word “Puck”.
Pac-Man and Enemies at Play
The game opens up to a maze lined up with dots. Now Pac-Man, a simple round yellow fellow – more like a pizza with a missing slice (that’s his mouth actually) will have to go through the maze while chomping on the dots until the maze is dot-free.
While he’s going through his usual routine of emptying the maze, four blue-eyed ghosts are randomly running after our chomping fellow. These ghosts go by the names Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde. Each ghost appear cute and lovable but all have the same killer instinct with one target – Pac-Man. Blinky the red-hot ghost closely follows his target. More like an unleashed hound dog trained to follow the enemy’s trail. Pinky (who is as pink as a cotton candy) won’t follow Pac-Man’s tracks but will go through the maze and surprise his target and meet him head on, sandwiching Pac-Man between him and Blinky. Pinky has the makings of a superb strategist and collaborator. Inky on the other hand is more like a fickle ghost who can be quite impulsive, changing courses on many occasions. Clyde, who is as yellow as Pac-Man may be confused with his ghostly mission. Oftentimes, he wouldn’t dare make a chase but will just wander around the maze aimlessly. Simply put, Clyde is simply not a team player. On several occasions, these lovable looking ghosts will take a breather and each will take a short rest (to recharge maybe) at the corner of the maze but will soon resume to their posts armed with a new mode of attack.
Health and Lifestyle
While Pac-Man appears to have cannibalistic tendencies too (he seem to eat his own kind – dots), he can be quite a health buff who takes supplements seriously and regularly. He gulps power pills (known to energize him though for a short while) and helps him attack and eat his enemy ghosts. At this point the ghosts turn blue and slow down a bit. Tables are turned and it’s Pac-Man’s turn to terrorize and go after these cute ghosts. While chomping on veggies is not his cup of tea, Pac-Man loves to gobble on fruits like cherries, strawberries, and apples whenever they’re served within the maze. These goes to show that Pac-Man, who may lead a stressful life of chasing and munching dots, ghosts, and power pellets isn’t one who ignores health and fitness. Every time Mr. Pac-Man successfully finishes his meal of dots, and occasional servings of fiber-rich fruit, a new level comes up, with each level more challenging than the previous one.
Part of the Pacman Package
Popularity has its perks and this is part of the package for someone as famous as Pac-Man. While he was a real hit among video game fans, he also got the unwavering attention of music lovers. He was glorified by Buckner and Garcia, who in the early 80s recorded “Pac-Man Fever”. This song became popular too among listeners and these same fans helped it garner the number nine slot in the billboards. What started as just one song later blossomed into a full-pledged album – a compilation of songs on video games. He also for some time became a permanent fixture in the boob tubes via a Pac-Man animated series created by the popular cartoon creator, Hanna-Barbera. The cartoon Pac-Man sported a brown hat with brown boots to match – an Indiana Jones inspired outfit so it seems. The cartoon was on air from 1982 to 1984. This is not at all bad for a Pac-Man when some TV Actors’ shows get hacked just right after a few episode runs. Not contented with just having a TV show, he also figured in some commercials – promoting of course his very own Pac-Man cereals and Pac-Man look alike pasta shells packaged as a mac and cheese treat created and endorsed by no less than Chef Boyardee. Pretty soon, he became a super icon whose image graced all forms of wares from stickers and notebooks to shirts and sleep wear.
His creators were probably thinking that Pac-Man also needed a missus. Eventually, they created Ms. Pac-Man. She is of course the female version of Pac-Man – same round yellow form but with a pink, girly bow on her crown. Ms. Pac-Man also became an instant hit just like her famous male counterpart.
Why Do We Love Pacman?
So why do millions of people have come to love Pac-Man? Why not? His game is about chasing (though dots are not really moving) and being chased. The excitement builds up when players successfully complete one maze after another. Each level became more challenging than the previous level. It almost leaves players insatiable, craving for more challenges. Players get a new high whenever they reach a new level and when the game suddenly comes to an end they would soon find themselves playing the game all over again. Hours will pass and players won’t even notice.
Pac-Man’s game is actually a breather from the usual 80s video game of alien invasion, shooting asteroids, and all other space games that can be quite war-like. It even overshadowed the video car racing game that other promoters thought would be a more likely winner. This is probably the reason why apart from boys, girls also frequented video arcades to play Pac-Man. Actually, Iwatani also had women in mind when he conceptualized the game. He envisioned a video game that women would also learn to love. So part of his idea to lure females to play it was to create something that is funny and yet quite challenging. He even chose pretty colors for the ghosts with the thought that women would love it. The game is fun and challenging without the combative nature of some video games already existing at that time.
Almost anyone across the globe who has played the game years ago would have sworn that they have caught the Pac-Man fever at some point in their lives. Pac-Man will forever be one of the popular games in the history of video/arcade games. Re-visiting the game is like going down memory lane when adults once played like kids and kids played like adults.