Friends, it was 38 years ago today that Atari was able to declare the first National Pac-Man Day – taking out ads in The New York Times starting five days before the big event. Now this obviously wasn’t just to remind everyone just how amazing Namco’s Pac-Man was or how popular the iconic video game character had become with a slew of merchandising including record albums, collectibles, and even a Saturday Morning animated series on ABC.
April 3rd of 1982 was chosen as the first National Pac-Man Day because that happened to be when Atari was releasing their home port of the game to the Atari VCS – which would become known as the Atari 2600 in November of that year. Although I knew of National Pac-Man Day thanks to a teacher at my elementary school – I didn’t actually get my hands on the Pac-Man cartridge until the Holiday season of ’82. That however didn’t mean I didn’t desire the cartridge thanks to a multitude of advertisements in game magazines of the day, to say nothing of the television commercials like this one from JCPenney.
On that first Nation Pac-Man Day as I understand it from newspaper and magazine articles online, Atari paid for touring appearances of folks dressed in Pac-Man and Blinky costumes to greet fans and distribute swag – like stickers and T-Shirts. And while perhaps Atari didn’t continue to hold events for National Pac-Man Day after ’83, we video game fans were all too happy to continue to mark it on our calendars ever since. Case in point, our good friend Willie from Arcade USA who back in 2017 uploaded this little reminder of the importance of today.
Pac-Man is quite possibly the easiest arcade classic to play – having been ported to nearly every home console in existence, you can play it on your Xbox and PS4 or phone – even online for free if you feel like joining in on the fun of National Pac-Man Day. Now if you happen to have your hands full and are too busy to play some Pac-Man right this very second… you could always listen to the Diary of An Arcade Employee podcast where I tackle Pac-Man Plus and Pac-Land!