views updated


Long before Sony Playstation and Lara Croft, a yellow pizza with a slice missing ruled the video-game arcades. Pac-Man appeared in Japan in 1980, produced by Namco. Legend has it that its creator, Toru Iwatani (1955–), was inspired by a night out at a local pizza (see entry under 1940s—Food and Drink in volume 3) restaurant. He invented a game that would dominate the video game (see entry under 1970s—Sports and Games in volume 5) market for several years. To today's gamers,Pac-Man looks simple and unexciting, but for serious players it remains the game to beat. A perfect Pac-Man score was not achieved until 1999.

Pac-Man is the simplest of games. The hero of the game is trapped in a maze littered with dots and occasional pieces of fruit. His task is to "eat" all the dots and fruit without being destroyed by the ghosts "Clyde," "Blinky," "Inky," and "Pinky." Once all the dots are consumed, the player goes on to a new level, which runs faster and behaves differently. "Power Pellets" allow the hero to eat the ghosts.

Originally called "Puckman," the American arcade game of 1981 became "Pac-Man" to avoid problems with graffiti. The game was so popular that it inspired variations such as "Ms. Pac-Man" and "Baby Pac-Man." Pac-Man memorabilia—ashtrays, playing cards, whoopie cushions, soft toys, and so on—soon appeared. In the early 1980s, Pac-Man pasta and breakfast cereal even appeared. The song "Pac-Man Fever" reached number nine on the American charts, while the Pac-Man television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) cartoon was also a big hit. Pac-Man was named "Game of the Century" at Classic Gaming Expo '99. By the twenty-first century, it was estimated that Pac-Man had been played over ten billion times.

—Chris Routledge

For More Information

Herz, J. C. Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won OurHearts, and Rewired Our Minds. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.

"Pac-Man." Classic Gaming. (accessed April 4, 2002).

Poole, Steven. Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2000.

Trueman, Doug. "The History of Pac-Man." Gamespot. (accessed April 4, 2002).