Happy 35th Birthday Pac-Man!

Jun 8, 2015 By Aarathi
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You must have played this video game – guiding a cute pizza-shaped figure through a maze and getting him to chomp up all the food-dots. The aim is to gobble up as many power pellets as you can while avoiding the ghosts!

Any guesses? Yes, we are talking about Pac-Man, one of the most-loved video games ever.

Pac-Man was created in 1980 by Toru Iwatani, a game developer with a Japanese company. Since then, the game’s popularity has inspired several different versions of the game from arcades to consoles, as well as tons of cartoons and merchandise. On Pac-Man’s 35th birthday, let’s look back at his life.

Developing Pac-Man

One day in early 1980, Toru Iwatani, an employee of the Japanese game publisher NAMCO, was mulling over new ideas as he ate. He removed a pizza slice from the whole pie and suddenly, was struck by how much the remaining pizza reminded him of an open mouth! So was born the idea of the character.

Originally, he named his character Pakkuman after the Japanese phrase ‘paku-paku’ echoing the sound of chomping on food. Iwatani and his team launched the game on May 221980, and named it Puck-man after the character’s similarity to hockey pucks. The character could be guided around a maze, to gulp down little food-like-dots.

The team deliberately used brightly colored displays and ‘cute’ ghost enemies to chase the character so as to make the game appealing to wider audiences, especially girls. Just to keep things interesting, Iwatani included some ‘power pellet’ cookies resembling larger food dots. Rather like the cartoon Popeye who ate food to gain energy, the hero could eat power pellets and turn the tables on the ghosts, to chase them around!

When it released in the U.S. later the same year, it was renamed Pac-man - both the name and the game became a huge hit. NAMCO’s arcade machines swallowed quarters almost as fast as Pac-Man munched up dots. Multiple levels and multiple versions all found favor with players. Today, Pac-man continues to be played in arcades, on consoles, and even on mobile devices.

Pac-Man, The Icon!

Pac-Man was the first family-oriented video game and set the trend for the industry. It was also one of the first maze-based games which in turn inspired several others. Pac-Man games have 255 progressive levels, with the 266th being the kill-screen or an unbeatable round. As such the maximum score that can be achieved is 3,333,360 points, which was first achieved by avid gamer Billy Mitchell in 1999.

High-scores aside, Pac-Man has a huge fan following. Players themselves have built the largest maze with over 25,000 levels at worldsbiggestpacman.com. 5 years back, on Pac-man’s 30th birthday, Google celebrated the event with a doodle, which allowed visitors to directly play the game too.

Apart from merchandise and even cereal boxes, Pac-Man has inspired dozens of cartoons, live games (around city blocks), and even Ms.Pac-Man and a Pac-man World! Next month, Pac-man will also make an appearance in Pixels, a movie set for release in July. In fact, to promote the movie and to celebrate the 35th birthday, Sony in Japan organized the largest human image of Pac-man with 351 participants on May 21 this year. This was duly recorded by the Guinness World Records too.

Courtesy Time.com, Pacman.com, Guinnessworldrecords.com