It was 40 years ago today, Iwatani taught us all to play… Yes, in honour of Pac-Man’s big 4-0 we dug up some stuff from the deepest recesses of our brain (erm, and Google) to celebrate the highest grossing coin-operated video game of all-time (and that’s not counting all of those sweet merch bucks).
If you ever thought that ‘Pac-Man’ was an odd name you’d be right. It was actually called Puck-Man in Japan, based on the word ‘paku’ for, basically, ‘chomp’. As for the name change, we doubt we need to spell it out. Let’s just say that the game’s original U.S. distributor, Midway, didn’t want to tempt potty-minded vandals. Fans of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will, of course, already know this.
It was the U.S. where Pac-Man first became a smash hit, not Japan. It even spawned a top 10 single (a cooler way of saying that it only managed to climb to number nine – but then it did sell over a million copies) called Pac-Man Fever, by novelty song duo Buckner & Garcia. The hairy pair later released an album, serenading the likes of Frogger, Centipede, Donkey Kong and Defender. It was terrible. Because we’re cruel, here’s the 12” version of Pac-Man Fever…
Know your enemy
All of the ghosts that pursue our intrepid yellow hero have distinct personalities. Red ghost Blinky (a.k.a. Akabei, Shadow) is the bossy boots of the operation, actively pursuing Pac-Man. Pinky (a.k.a. Speedy) – and you can likely guess their colour – tends to hang out in front of Pac-Man, hoping for a chance to pounce. Blue one Inky (a.k.a. Aosuke, Bashful) pretty much does the same as Pinky, while Clyde (a.k.a. Guzuta, Pokey) basically only looks out for one guy, Clyde.
While you were theoretically supposed to be able to play Pac-Man forever, a bug causes a “kill screen” after completing 255 levels. At this point the screen goes all glitchy, meaning the highest possible score that’s achievable is 3,333,360. The first recorded person to achieve this was Billy Mitchell, who some may recall from the movie The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. The shy little thing – whose arcade records are now all in question – talks about his Pac-Man achievement in the clip above.
Each Pac-Man maze contains 244 dots – including four power pellets. Well, except for that pesky kill screen, of course. Aren’t you glad to know that?
Girl power (pellets)!
Pac-Man’s creator, Toru Iwatani, originally designed the game in hopes of drawing more females into arcades, as they were packed to the rafters with space games and generally tended to be dingy, sweaty sausage-fests. Then again, he did go on to create car racing game Pole Position two years later, which wasn’t exactly a chick magnet. Not to say that women don’t dig car games, of course, as many of us do.
Pac-Man is acknowledged as the first ever game to contain cutscenes. Anybody who’s ever fallen asleep from text fatigue while playing a JRPG more recently might wish to have words with Iwatani-san…
Iwatani (who now teaches in the arts department at Tokyo Polytechnic University) actually appeared in Adam Sandler’s 2015 movie Pixels, where game characters including Pac-Man invade the Earth. Rather than playing himself though, he had a brief cameo as the arcade machine repairman near the beginning of the flick. This was because he doesn’t speak English, not because he was ashamed to be more involved in a Sandler movie. Allegedly.
Pixels was based upon a 2010 short film from French director Patrick Jean. Some may argue that he was inspired by the season three Futurama episode Anthology of Interest II.
Not really an entry…
But we’re really craving pizza now.
Finally, if you type ‘Pac-Man’ into Google then you may not get any more work done today.