To describe Pac-Man as an arcade game classic is an understatement. The success of Pac-Man extended far beyond the video game industry. From the cover of Time Magazine to a hit song and cartoon show, Pac-Man captured the attention of the nation like no other video game before or after it. Pac-Man is an icon of the video game industry and of an era.
Created by Toru Iwatani of Namco, Pac-Man was licensed to Midway and released in the U.S. in 1980. Iwatani wanted to create a non-violent video game that both men and women would enjoy. He focused on the idea of eating and designed the game from there. The colorful, wide-eyed ghosts of Pac-Man were purposely made cute to attract female players. Each ghost also has an individualized pattern of movement. Therefore, gamers can memorize the ghosts' movements for each maze, allowing them to easily defeat each level and move on to the next. Moving on to higher and higher levels became an addiction that drew players into the game. In 1999, gamer Billy Mitchell became the first person to achieve a perfect game of Pac-Man.
The character that gives his name to the game is a small yellow pie-like figure, inspired by the image of a pizza with one missing slice for a mouth. Players direct Pac-Man through a series of mazes, while avoiding 4 ghosts- Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde. In order to continue on to the next level, the player must clear the maze of its 240 dots and 4 energizer pills. If Pac-Man is caught by a ghost, he disappears into a yellow light and a life is lost. Eating an energizer pill gives Pac-Man the temporary ability to eat the ghosts for 1600 bonus points each. Fruits and other random objects appear throughout the mazes to be eaten for extra points.
With Pac-Man, the focus of the video game industry shifted from space shooting games to maze chase games. Arcades flourished and arcade games appeared in an array of businesses. Pac-Man acted as the mascot of the video game revolution. His success introduced a new type of lovable video game characters; Mario, Sonic, and Pikachu would succeed him. Like Pong, clones of Pac-Man were plentiful, but none were as popular as the original. Arcade game spin-offs included Ms. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man, Pac-Land, and many more.
In 1981, about 250 million games were played on over 100,000 machines every week in the U.S. Pac-Man attracted gamers from all walks of life: business men and women playing on lunch breaks, mothers and fathers playing alongside their children, and the usual crowd of teenagers and computer nerds. Pac-Man themed lunchboxes, t-shirts, bumper stickers, cereal, sleeping bags, candy, and board games all profited from the game's success. Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, the video game industry had been steadily breaking into mainstream American culture, but Pac-Man marked a final clear cut arrival of the industry.