The Legacy of Pac-Man: How an Arcade Game from the ’80s Remains Popular Today

The Legacy of Pac-Man

Few video games have successfully achieved the staying power of Pac-Man. Since making his debut in 1980, Pac-Man still remains a staple arcade game. But why is the simple game still so popular? And how do you play the iconic game?

Here’s everything you need to know about the famous Pac-Man.

The History of Pac-Man

On May 22, 1980, the very first focus test for Pac-Man was held. After the testing success, the company officially released the game to Japan in July that year. In October, the game made its way to the United States. Within a year, over 100,000 units were sold across the globe.

Pac-Man actually wasn’t the original name of the game. The name Puck-Man was considered, but developers worried that American kids would change the P to an F in arcades.

In 1981, Pac-Man already got his very first of many sequels. Ms. Pac-Man entered onto the scene with the same video game mechanics but with additional features. Updates like the alternative maze design system made some critics say that the Ms. Pac-Man was an improvement upon the original. Her popularity soared in the United States in 1982.

The intense popularity of the game brought Pac-Man out of a videogame and into other forms of entertainment. Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., which eventually was absorbed by Cartoon Network, produced a two-season show simply called Pac-Man from 1982 to 1984. It follows the Pac-Man family – Pac-Man, Ms. Pepper Pac-Man, Pac-Baby, Chomp-Chomp the dog, and Sour Puss the cat – as they battle against their foes Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Clyde, and Sue.

It was the very first show based on a video game, starting a trend that continues today with video game adaptations such as Uncharted hitting the big screen. Movies like Wreck It Ralph build upon the success of adaptations based on the arcade experience itself.

pac-man arcade
Photo Credit: Marti Bug Catcher

How to Play Pac-Man

Arguably, the simplicity of Pac-Man’s mechanics is what makes the game so popular. The game doesn’t take much skill to operate, but it takes just enough concentration to keep the player engaged. It’s “easy to learn and hard to master.” Practice makes perfect, and the game gets rather addictive. 

The player controls Pac-Man and the objective is simple; earn points by eating the dots around the maze. You need to watch out for the monsters, because running into them will make you lose a life, eventually ending the game. 

However, if you eat one of the larger dots, called Energizers, the ghosts will turn blue. If you run into them during this period, you can eat the monsters to get more points. Only their eyes will remain, and they’ll scurry back to the monster bullpen to regenerate. They reenter the maze in their original form. 

A level ends when you eat all the dots. The game increases in difficulty as each level the Energizer period decreases and the monsters get faster. 

Die-hard fans of the game will analyze each of the monster’s strategies. The AI programming of the game hasn’t changed since the 80s, so the longer you play, the more you’ll pick up on the predictable patterns. 

Blinky, the red one, directly chases Pac-Man. Pinky and Inky (pink and cyan) will try to corner Pac-Man by blocking his path. Clyde (orange) oscillates between chasing Pac-Man and running away. 

Celebrating the Pacman 30th Anniversary

Pac-Man has had such an influence on gaming culture that Google celebrated the Pac-Man 30th anniversary with a playable Google Doodle. Even though this doodle was released on May 21, 2010, it’s still archived and available to play over a decade later.

Instead of a joystick, you used your arrow keys to move the Pac-Man up and down to avoid the monsters and eat the dots. 

The only difference? Instead of the traditional layout, you move the character around a maze of the Google logo. 

pac-man 30 anniversary

Pac-Man’s Cultural Impact

You can have fun playing the game regardless of your skill level. Whether you get competitive when playing or you just enjoy giving it a try, you’ll still get a kick out of the classic game. In a culture that likes to move on to the next best thing, it’s impressive that the video game is still beloved by many over 40 years later. 

Have you ever played Pac-Man? Do you like the arcade experience or would you rather just play on your computer? Do you enjoy any of the many spin-offs of the game? Have you ever seen the TV show? Tell us in the comments!

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