Happy 35th birthday, Pac-Man!

Pac-Man, the biggest arcade game of all time, turns 35 today,” Chris Kohler reports for Wired.

“Released by the Japanese company Namco on May 22, 1980, Pac-Man was like nothing else at the time,” Kohler reports. “At a time when Space Invaders and Asteroids and other games with abstracted, monochrome graphics ruled the arcade, Pac-Man offered a colorful cartoonish design with an appealing central character. It revolved around eating, not shooting; and it was designed to appeal to young women and couples, not dudes in sketchy bowling-alley bars (although they all played it too).”

“The colorful design and unique collect-the-dots maze gameplay—plus the wonderful tension of running away from those darned ghosts, then scrambling to eat them once you got a power pellet—made Pac-Man almost instantly addictive, eating quarters as rapaciously as its protagonist swallowed pixels,” Kohler reports. “But Pac-Man was more than a hit game. It was a genuine cultural inflection point… The era of abstract Pong paddles and blocky spaceships was over—it was lovable characters like Pac that were going to be the face of games from now on. Pac-Man was gaming’s first true franchise, in a way that most successful games today spawn spin-offs and sequels.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We memorized the patterns and eventually, even without the patterns (the ghosts each have their own tendencies and… yeah, TMI), we could play the game for hours on one quarter, mesmerizing the arcade or pizza parlor or wherever Pac-Man was located. “How does that kid do that?!” Fun times!

Like that deaf, dumb and blind kid, we sure played a mean Pac-Man. We could split-screen it and all. Yes, you know it: We had Pac-Man fever! Ah, youth. And, then — poof! — we and the world moved on and it was over. (We still sneak in a game whenever we come across a machine, but we leave them long before the game is done.)

Happy birthday, Pac-Man!

(BTW, every single instance where we typed “Pac-Man” above, including the headline, we had to correct because we typed “Pac-Mac” without even realizing it!)


    1. Oh, yes. The letdown.

      For some reason, we’d hoped the 2600 version would be the same as the arcade version. Of course, it couldn’t have been, but what did we kids know back then? (And then, of course, came the infamous E.T. for 2600 later that same year, 1982.)

      Besides the tabletops (we had one in our local Pizza Hut), there’s nothing that’s ever came close to playing it on a proper standup machine with a real industrial strength rebound (return-to-center) joystick.

      1. Yes, the industrial strength joystick is what made the difference between real arcade games and the home stuff.
        Never found a satisfying version of Defender other than the original industrial strength standup quarter version.

    1. We’re all geeks at heart and a lot of us played games back then and still play games now. I had Pac Man on the Apple II, and I still play the ROM on the MAME emulator for Mac, so it’s relevant. Deal. 😉

  1. I remember the first time I saw Pac-Man. It was in a Chuck E. Cheese when I was 13. I also remember being traumatized by the creepy undead singing automatons embedded in the walls. Ah, childhood!


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