Little Bits of History

Pac-Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2014
Pac-Man

Pac-Man

May 22, 1980: Namco releases an arcade game. Namco was founded on June 1, 1955 in Japan. They were a video game and amusement park concern and merged with Bandai in September 2005 and were re-established on March 31, 2006. They are headquartered in Tokyo. Masaya Nakamura had founded the company to build amusement rides but in 1974, he bought out a struggling gaming company – Atari. He outbid others, including Sega, which had been building pinball machines, in order to do this. Their original video game, Gee Bee came out in 1978 and the next year Galaxian revolutionized the video game industry by using RGB color graphics.

But it was this game, released on this day, that secured Namco’s fame. Pac-Man was a fixture of popular culture. Namco did not release in the US under their own name but under the name of Midway. The game came to America in October 1980 and was immediately popular and remains one of the classics of video gaming. There were subsequent Pac-Man derivatives and lots of marketing of merchandise. There was even an animated TV series based on the game as well as a top-ten single.

Prior to the game’s release, space shooter games – especially Space Invaders and Asteroids – were the big hits. Pac-Man, designed by Toru Iwantani, is credited with being a landmark game and among the most famous as well. It is the one of the highest grossing video games of all time and had generated more than $2.5 billion (accumulated in quarters) by the 1990s. Pac-Man characters have appeared in more than thirty officially licensed game spin-offs and there are uncounted numbers of unauthorized clones. According to a survey, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character with 94% of Americans able to recognize the little dot muncher.

The player controls Pac-Man’s movements through a maze while he chomps pac-dots. A stage is completed when Pac-Man has consumed all the dots. The challenge isn’t just to maneuver through the ever more difficult mazes, but to do so while eluding the four enemies. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (ghosts) roam the maze and if they touch Pac-Man, a life is lost and Pac-Man withers and dies. In the four corners of the maze are larger pac-dots called power pellets which give Pac-Man temporary ability to eat his enemies (all but the eyes which return to the center box where they once again become whole and ready to pursue Pac-Man). A single bonus life is awarded if a player reaches 10,000 points. The game is over when all Pac-Man lives are lost.

If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music. – Marcus Brigstocke

Pac-Man didn’t occupy its place in commercial culture because consumers wanted to metaphorically imitate an insatiably hungry little yellow ball; they bought because the game was good enough to tap into genuine sources of pleasure. – Chris Green

Kids don’t even read comic books anymore. They’ve got more important things to do – like video games. – Ang Lee

There are plenty of skills I’ve learned from playing video games. It’s more interactive than watching TV, because there are problems to solve as you’re using your brain. – Shaun White

Also on this day: Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.
Air Fleet – In 1936 Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.

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2 Responses

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  1. vanbraman said, on May 22, 2014 at 10:50 am

    This post brings back some memories. I remember playing Pac-Man at the local gas station, arcade, Pizza Huts and many other places. I now have the sound in my head and it will probably stay with me for awhile 🙂


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