Pac-Man Turns 35

PHOTO CREDIT: Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images
PHOTO CREDIT: Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

Thirty-five years ago today, Namco’s Puck Man burst into Japanese arcades… and didn’t make much of an impact. In October 1980, the game was quietly released in America with a slight name change, for fear that the word “puck” could easily be altered into, well, you know. Pac-Man was born, and unexpectedly, Pac-Mania soon swept the nation, forever altering video games, pop culture, and breakfast cereal as we knew them.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why anything resonates in pop culture, but Pac-Man’s success owes a great deal to its simplicity: eat all the pellets while avoiding the ghosts, until you eat a power pellet and then eat all the ghosts. That’s pretty much it. With just a joystick to control the character and no buttons necessary, anyone can pick it up and play. And everyone did. Pac-Man quickly chomped his way through the competition to become the best-selling arcade game in North America and one of the highest-grossing video games of all time.

Within a few years, Pac-Man spawned an animated series, a General Mills cereal (mmm, ghost marshmallows), a top 10 Billboard song (“Pac-Man Fever”) and a Weird Al parody, a children’s chewable multivitamin (perhaps to combat Pac-Man Fever) as well as heaps of licensed (and unlicensed) merchandise. Basically anything that could have Pac-Man stamped on it did have Pac-Man stamped on it, and you bought it.

Pac-Man’s prominence continues to this day, in video games as well as TV and movies. A new animated series, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, airs on Disney XD, and Pac-Man had a cameo in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph and has an even bigger role in the forthcoming Adam Sandler comedy Pixels. Last year, Pac-Man joined Mario and company for an adorable beatdown in Super Smash Bros., and Namco recently released an updated version of Pac-Man for iOS that introduced new mazes and challenges and a multiplayer mode.

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SOURCE: Entertainment Weekly, Aaron Morales

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