Pac-Man is a maze action video game developed and released by Namco for arcades.
Pac-Man quickly became an international sensation, with more than 100,000 consoles sold in the United States alone, easily making it the most successful arcade game in history.
The yellow, pie-shaped Pac-Man character, who travels around a maze trying to eat dots and avoid four hunting ghosts, quickly became an icon of the 1980s.
The lead designer was Iwatani Tohru, who intended to create a game that did not emphasize violence. By paying careful attention to themes, design, and colours, Iwatani hoped that Namco could market an arcade game that would appeal to females.
In Japanese slang, paku paku describes the snapping of a mouth open and shut, and thus the central character, resembling a small pizza with a slice cut out for the mouth, was given the name Pac-Man.
The game was made challenging by a group of four “ghosts” on each level that tried to catch and consume Pac-Man – the roles of predator and prey were temporarily reversed when Pac-Man ate special “power pills” placed in the maze.
The ghosts are called Blinky (red), Pinky (pink), Inky (light blue), and Clyde (orange) and they each have their own personalities based on AI routines. Blinky constantly chases Pac-Man, Pinky attempts to ambush him, Inky is randomised depending on Pac-Man’s position and Clyde will get close to the player then attempt to flee to the bottom left corner, potentially cutting off escape routes.
The game features short animated sequences between levels, showing Pac-Man being chased by the ghosts. This was one of the first examples of a non-interactive video game “cutscene”.
A perfect score on the original Pac-Man arcade game is 3,333,360 points, achieved when the player obtains the maximum score on the first 255 levels by eating every dot, energizer, fruit and blue ghost without losing a man, then uses all six men to obtain the maximum possible number of points on level 256.
The Pac-Man video game was so immensely popular that within a year there were spin-offs being created and released, some of them unauthorized. The most popular of these was Ms. Pac-Man, which first appeared in 1981 as an unauthorized version of the game.
A wide variety of Pac-Man merchandise have been marketed with the character’s image. At one point, fans could purchase Pac-Man T-shirts, mugs, stickers, a board game, plush dolls, belt buckles, puzzles, a card game, wind-up toys, wrapping paper, pajamas, lunch boxes, and bumper stickers.
In the Friends episode The One Where Joey Dates Rachel, Phoebe gives Chandler and Monica a pristine Ms Pac-Man cabinet as a late wedding present – a generous gift as it would have cost about $2,500.
In 2001, Namco released a port of Pac-Man for various Japanese mobile phones, being one of the company’s first mobile game releases.
Guinness World Records has awarded the Pac-Man series eight records in Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008, including “Most Successful Coin-Operated Game”. On June 3, 2010, at the NLGD Festival of Games, the game’s creator Toru Iwatani officially received the certificate from Guinness World Records for Pac-Man having had the most “coin-operated arcade machines” installed worldwide: 293,822. The record was set and recognized in 2005 and mentioned in the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008, but finally actually awarded in 2010.
In 2009, Guinness World Records listed Pac-Man as the most recognizable video game character in the United States, recognized by 94% of the population, above Mario who was recognized by 93% of the population. The Pac-Man character and game series became an icon of video game culture during the 1980s.
The smallest Pac-Man maze measures 500 x 900 micrometers and uses LED lights to guide single-celled “Euglena” in real-time around their microscopic environment. The game is played on a “LudosScope”, a smartphone microscope created by researchers at Stanford University that can also be used to play equally tiny games of microbe soccer.
In April 2011, Soap Creative published World’s Biggest Pac-Man, working together with Microsoft and Namco-Bandai to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary. It is a multiplayer browser-based game with user-created, interlocking mazes.
For April Fools’ Day in 2017, Google created a playable of the game on Google Maps where users were able to play the game using the map onscreen.