Friends, you have probably already heard that today is kind of an important date – 40 years ago today Namco’s Pac-Man was released on the World. While it’s North American release wasn’t until a few months later and handled by Midway Games – Pac-Man made it’s debut in an arcade in the Shibuya district in Tokyo as a focus test and video game history was made. Although it appears that it was here in the States where the game really took off – I’ve read online that in Japan it was another Namco title, Galaxian, that proved to initially be the more popular game. Toru Iwatani, the creator of Pac-Man or PuckMan as it was originally called, designed the game to be the exact opposite of the more popular arcade games of the day – with most of them being aggressive space shooters. In addition he felt that his colorful character would not only bring in female game Players but it might attract couples to arcades – help to stop the rather negative stereotype surrounding arcades at the time.
For myself I first encountered Pac-Man at the local skating rink, I had already a terminal case of video game fever thanks to the likes of Space Invaders and other earlier arcade titles. The bar however was raised the moment I inserted that very first quarter into Pac-Man – just like I mentioned with my article for the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – I was doodling the likes of Pac-Man as well as Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde on my schoolwork, notebooks, and any free piece of scratch paper I could lay my hands on. To say nothing of the fact that a fan could It was pretty obvious however that when Buckner & Garcia released their hit single in December of ’81 that I was far from the only one infected by “Pac-Man Fever”.
Pac-Man showed no signs of slowing down in popularity the following year – when Hanna-Barbera produced the Saturday Morning animated series for ABC. It has been reported that it managed to draw in a whopping 56% of the viewership during it’s initial run – it also included the characters of Ms. Pac-Man as well as Baby Pac-Man.
Obviously Pac-Man has shown no signs of slowing down in popularity 40 years later, there have been numerous spinoff titles like Pac-Man Plus, Pac-Land, Pac-Mania, Pac-Man Championship Edition. In addition to appearances in major motion pictures and even showing up as a playable character in the Super Smash Bros series.
The Pac-Man gaming franchise though all started 40 years ago… as a simple focus test – who knew how big the yellow guy would eventually get back then? While sadly in my neck of the woods we can’t hop on over to the arcade and play a game of Pac-Man to celebrate the 40th Anniversary – the truth is it’s widely available online, so why not join me in playing that classic video game to mark the occasion?