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Retro Gaming Systems


By January 18, 2017 9 Comments

Pac-Man (Japanese: パックマン, Hepburn: Pakkuman?), stylized as PAC-MAN, is an arcade game developed by Namco and first released in Japan in May 1980.[2][3] It was created by Japanese video game designer Toru Iwatani. It was licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway and released in October 1980. Immensely popular from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is considered one of the classics of the medium, and an icon of 1980s popular culture.[6][7][8][9] Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, Pac-Man derivatives—became a social phenomenon[10] that yielded high sales of merchandise and inspired a legacy in other media, such as the Pac-Man animated television series and the top-ten hit single “Pac-Man Fever”.[11] Pac-Man was popular in the 1980s and 1990s and is still played in the 2010s.

When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters, in particular, Space Invaders and Asteroids. The most visible minority were sports games that were mostly derivatives of Pong. Pac-Man succeeded by creating a new genre.[12] Pac-Man is often credited with being a landmark in video game history and is among the most famous arcade games of all time.[13] It is also one of the highest-grossing video games of all time,[14] having generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.[15][16]

The character has appeared in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs,[17] as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs.[18] According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them.[19] Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games. It is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.[20] and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.[21]



Screenshot of the play area.

The player controls Pac-Man through a maze, eating pac-dots (also called biscuits or just dots). When all pac-dots are eaten, Pac-Man is taken to the next stage. Between some stages, one of three intermission animations plays.[22] Four enemies (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde) roam the maze, trying to catch Pac-Man. If an enemy touches Pac-Man, he loses a life. Whenever Pac-Man occupies the same tile as an enemy, he is considered to have collided with that ghost. When all lives have been lost, the game ends. Pac-Man is awarded a single bonus life at 10,000 points by default—DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points or disable the bonus life altogether.

Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the enemies. The enemies turn deep blue, reverse direction and usually move more slowly. When an enemy is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the center box where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue enemies flash white to signal that they are about to become dangerous again and the length of time for which the enemies remain vulnerable varies from one stage to the next, generally becoming shorter as the game progresses. In later stages, the enemies go straight to flashing, bypassing blue, which means that they can only be eaten for a short amount of time, although they still reverse direction when a power pellet is eaten; in even later stages, the ghosts do not become edible (i.e., they do not change color and still make Pac-Man lose a life on contact), but they still reverse direction.


Main article: Ghosts (Pac-Man)

North American Pac-Man title screen, showing the official enemy names

The enemies in Pac-Man are known variously as “monsters” and “ghosts”.[23][24][25] Despite the seemingly random nature of the enemies, their movements are strictly deterministic, which players have used to their advantage. In an interview, creator Toru Iwatani stated that he had designed each enemy with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play.[26] More recently, Iwatani described the enemy behaviors in more detail at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. He stated that the red enemy chases Pac-Man, and the pink and blue enemies try to position themselves in front of Pac-Man’s mouth.[27] Although he claimed that the orange enemy’s behavior is random, a careful analysis of the game’s code reveals that it actually chases Pac-Man most of the time, but also moves toward the lower-left corner of the maze when it gets too close to Pac-Man.

Although Midway’s 1980 flyer for Pac-Man used both the terms “monsters” and “ghost monsters”,[23] the term “ghosts” started to become more popular after technical limitations in the Atari 2600 version caused the antagonists to flicker and seem ghostlike, leading them to be referred to in the manual as “ghosts”, and they have most frequently been referred to as ghosts in English ever since.[28]


Kill screen

Level 256, unplayable under normal circumstances due to an integer overflow in the game’s code. Since this is an 8-bit game, the maximum integer value is 28 – 1, or 255.

Pac-Man was designed to have no ending – as long as at least one life was left, the game should be able to go on indefinitely. However, a bug keeps this from happening: Normally, no more than seven fruit are displayed on the HUD at the bottom of the screen at any given time. But when the internal level counter, which is stored in a single byte, or eight bits, reaches 255, the subroutine that draws the fruit erroneously “rolls over” this number to zero when it is determining the number of fruit to draw, using fruit counter = internal level counter + 1. Normally, when the fruit counter is below eight, the drawing subroutine draws one fruit for each level, decrementing the fruit counter until it reaches zero. When the fruit counter has overflowed to zero, the first decrement sets the fruit counter back to 255, causing the subroutine to draw a total of 256 fruit instead of the maximum of seven.[30]

This corrupts the bottom of the screen and the entire right half of the maze with seemingly random symbols and tiles, overwriting the values of edible dots which makes it impossible to eat enough dots to beat the level. Because this effectively ends the game, this “split-screen” level is often referred to as the “kill screen“. There are 114 dots on the left half of the screen, nine dots on the right, and one bonus key, totaling 6,310 points. When all of the dots have been cleared, nothing happens. The game does not consider a level to be completed until 244 dots have been eaten. Each time a life is lost, the nine dots on the right half of the screen get reset and can be eaten again, resulting in an additional 90 points per extra man. In the best-case scenario (five extra men), 6,760 points will be the maximum score possible, but only 168 dots can be harvested, and that is not enough to change levels. Four of the nine dots on the right half of the screen are invisible, but can be heard when eaten. Some dots are invisible but the rest can be seen, although some are a different color from normal. One method for safely clearing this round is to trap the ghosts. To trap the three important ghosts, the player must begin by going right until Pac-man reaches a blue letter ‘N’, and then he goes down. He keeps going down until he reaches a blue letter ‘F’, and then he goes right. He keeps going right until he reaches a yellow ‘B’, and then he goes down again. When executed properly, Pac-Man will hit an invisible wall almost immediately after the last turn is made. Eventually, the red ghost will get stuck. The pink ghost follows a few seconds later. The blue ghost will continue to move freely for several moments until the next scatter mode occurs. At that point, it will try to reach some location near the right edge of the screen and get stuck with the pink and red ghost instead. The orange ghost is the only one still on the loose, but he is no real threat since he runs to his corner whenever Pac-Man gets close so that it is easy to eat all the dots.[31]:ch5 Emulators and code analysis have revealed what would happen if this 256th level is cleared: the fruit and intermissions would restart at level 1 conditions, but the enemies would retain their higher speed and invulnerability to power pellets from the higher stages.[32]

Perfect play

A perfect Pac-Man game occurs when the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 256 levels (by eating every possible dot, power pellet, fruit, and enemy) without losing a single life, and using all extra lives to score as many points as possible on Level 257.[33][34]

The first person to achieve this score is Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida, who performed the feat in about six hours.[34][35] Since then, over 20 other players have attained the maximum score in increasingly faster times. As of 2016[update], the world record, according to Twin Galaxies, is held by David Race, who in 2013 attained the maximum possible score of 3,333,360 points in 3 hours, 28 minutes, and 49 seconds.[36][37]

In December 1982, an eight-year-old boy, Jeffrey R. Yee, supposedly received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if he had passed the unbeatable Split-Screen Level.[34] In September 1983, Walter Day, chief scorekeeper at Twin Galaxies, took the US National Video Game Team on a tour of the East Coast to visit video game players who claimed they could get through the Split-Screen Level. No video game player could demonstrate this ability. In 1999, Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could pass through the Split-Screen Level before January 1, 2000. The prize was never claimed.[34]


The North American Pac-Man cabinet design (left) differs significantly from the Japanese Puck Man design (right).

The game was developed primarily by a young Namco employee named Toru Iwatani over the course of a year, beginning in April 1979, employing a nine-man team. It was based on the concept of eating, and the original Japanese title is Pakkuman (パックマン?), inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic phrase paku-paku taberu (パクパク食べる?),[38][39] where paku-paku describes (the sound of) the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession.[40][41]

Although Iwatani has repeatedly stated that the character’s shape was inspired by a pizza missing a slice,[10] he admitted in a 1986 interview that this was a half-truth and the character design also came from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi ().[42] Iwatani attempted to appeal to a wider audience—beyond the typical demographics of young boys and teenagers. His intention was to attract girls to arcades because he found there were very few games that were played by women at the time.[43] This led him to add elements of a maze, as well as cute ghost-like enemy characters. Eating to gain power, Iwatani has said, was a concept he borrowed from Popeye.[44] The result was a game he named Puck Man[45] as a reference to the main character’s hockey puck shape.[46] Later in 1980, the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States by Bally division Midway,[42] which changed the game’s name from Puck Man to Pac-Man in an effort to avoid vandalism from people changing the letter ‘P’ into an ‘F’ to form the word fuck.[45][46][47] The cabinet artwork was also changed and the pace and level of difficulty increased to appeal to western audiences.[45]


When first launched in Japan by Namco in 1980, the game received a lukewarm response, as Space Invaders and other similar games were more popular at the time.[12] However, Pac-Mans success in North America in the same year took competitors and distributors completely by surprise. Marketing executives who saw Pac-Man at a trade show prior to release completely overlooked the game (along with the now-classic Defender), while they looked to a racing car game called Rally-X as the game to outdo that year.[48] The appeal of Pac-Man was such that the game caught on immediately with the public; it quickly became far more popular than anything seen in the game industry up to that point. Pac-Man outstripped Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game in North America,[49][50] grossing over $1 billion in quarters within a year,[15][51] by the end of 1980,[52] surpassing the revenues grossed by the then highest-grossing film Star Wars.[53]

More than 350,000 Pac-Man arcade cabinets were sold[54][55] (retailing at around $2400 each)[56] for $1 billion within 18 months of release[54] (inflation adjusted: $2.4 billion in 2011).[57] By 1982, the game had sold 400,000 arcade machines worldwide and an estimated 7 billion coins had been inserted into Pac-Man machines.[58] In addition, United States revenues from Pac-Man licensed products (games, T-shirts, pop songs, wastepaper baskets, etc.) exceeded $1 billion[58] (inflation adjusted: $2.33 billion in 2011).[57] The game was estimated to have had 30 million active players across the United States in 1982.[59]

Toward the end of the 20th century, the arcade game’s total gross consumer revenue had been estimated by Twin Galaxies at more than 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion),[15][16] making it the highest-grossing video game of all time.[14] In 2016, USgamer calculated that the machines’ inflation-adjusted takings were equivalent to $7.68 billion.[60] In January 1982, the game won the overall Best Commercial Arcade Game award at the 1981 Arcade Awards.[61] In 2001, Pac-Man was voted the greatest video game of all time by a Dixons poll in the UK.[62] The readers of Killer List of Videogames name Pac-Man as the No. 1 video game on its “Top 10 Most Popular Video games” list, the staff name it as No. 18 on its “Top 100 Video Games” list, and Ms. Pac-Man is given similar recognition.[63]

Pac-Man intermission cutscene. It exaggerates the effect of the power pellet power-up, showing a comically large Pac-Man.[64]


The game is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time,[65][66][67] for a number of reasons: its titular character was the first original gaming mascot, the game established the maze chase game genre, it demonstrated the potential of characters in video games, it opened gaming to female audiences, and it was gaming’s first licensing success.[65] In addition, it was the first video game to feature power-ups,[68] and it is frequently credited as the first game to feature cut scenes, in the form of brief comical interludes about Pac-Man and Blinky chasing each other around during those interludes,[69]:2 though Space Invaders Part II employed a similar technique that same year.[70] Pac-Man is also credited for laying the foundations for the stealth game genre, as it emphasized avoiding enemies rather than fighting them,[71] and had an influence on the early stealth game Metal Gear, where guards chase Solid Snake in a similar manner to Pac-Man when he is spotted.[72]


Pac-Man has also influenced many other games, ranging from the sandbox game Grand Theft Auto (where the player runs over pedestrians and gets chased by police in a similar manner)[73] to early first-person shooters such as MIDI Maze (which had similar maze-based gameplay and character designs).[69]:5[74] Game designer John Romero credited Pac-Man as the game that had the biggest influence on his career;[75] Wolfenstein 3D was similar in level design[76] and featured a Pac-Man level from a first-person perspective,[77][78] while Doom had a similar emphasis on mazes, power-ups, killing monsters, and reaching the next level.[79] Pac-Man also influenced the use of power-ups in later games such as Arkanoid.[80]

Remakes and sequels

Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently published for over three decades, having been remade on numerous platforms and spawned many sequels. Re-releases include ported and updated versions of the original arcade game. Numerous unauthorized Pac-Man clones appeared soon after its release. The combined sales of counterfeit arcade machines sold nearly as many units as the original Pac-Man, which had sold more than 300,000 machines.[81]

The Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man only somewhat resembles the original and alternately redraws each ghost on the screen, creating a flicker effect.

One of the first ports to be released was the much-maligned port for the Atari 2600, which only somewhat resembles the original and was widely criticized for its flickering ghosts, due to the 2600’s limited memory and hardware compared to the arcade machine.[82][83][84] Despite the criticism, this version of Pac-Man sold seven million units[85] at $37.95 per copy,[11][86] and became the best-selling game of all time on the Atari 2600 console. While enjoying initial sales success, Atari had overestimated demand by producing 12 million cartridges, of which 5 million went unsold.[85][87][88] The port’s poor quality damaged the company’s reputation among consumers and retailers, which would eventually become one of the contributing factors to Atari‘s decline and the North American video game crash of 1983, alongside Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[85]

Meanwhile, Coleco‘s tabletop Mini-Arcade versions of the game yielded 1.5 million units sold in 1982.[89][90]

II Computing listed it tenth on the magazine’s list of top Apple II series games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data,[91] and in December 1987 alone Mindscape‘s IBM PC version of Pac-Man sold over 100,000 copies.[92] The game was also released for Atari’s 5200 and 8-bit computers, Intellivision, the Commodore 64 and VIC-20, and the Nintendo Entertainment System. For handheld game consoles, it was released on the Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, Game Boy Color, and the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

Pac-Man has been featured in Namco’s long-running Namco Museum video game compilations. Downloads of the game have been made available on game services such as Xbox Live Arcade, GameTap, and Virtual Console. Namco has released mobile versions of BREW, Java, and iOS, as well as Palm PDAs and Windows Mobile-based devices. A port of Pac-Man for Android[93] can be controlled not only through an Android phone’s trackball but through touch gestures or its on-board accelerometer. As of 2010[update], Namco had sold more than 30 million paid downloads of Pac-Man on BREW in the United States alone.[94]

Microsoft released Microsoft Return of Arcade in 1996 and Microsoft Return of Arcade: Anniversary Edition in 2000, and includes Pac-Man as one of its bundled arcade games.

Namco has repeatedly re-released the game to arcades. In 2001, Namco released a Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga “Class of 1981 Reunion Edition” cabinet with Pac-Man available for play as a hidden game. To commemorate Pac-Mans 25th anniversary in 2005, Namco released a revision that officially featured all three games.

Namco Networks sold a downloadable Windows PC version of Pac-Man in 2009 which also includes an “Enhanced” mode which replaces all of the original sprites with the sprites from Pac-Man Championship Edition. Namco Networks made a downloadable bundle which includes their PC version of Pac-Man and their port of Dig Dug called Namco All-Stars: Pac-Man and Dig Dug.

In 2010, Namco Bandai announced the release of the game on Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live game.[95]

Pac-Man has numerous sequels and spin-offs, including only one of which was designed by Tōru Iwatani. Some of the follow-ups were not developed by Namco either —including the most significant, Ms. Pac-Man, released in the United States in 1981. Originally called Crazy Otto, this unauthorized hack of Pac-Man was created by General Computer Corporation and sold to Midway without Namco’s permission. The game features several changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. Some consider Ms. Pac-Man to be superior to the original or even the best in the entire series.[13] Stan Jarocki of Midway stated that Ms. Pac-Man was conceived in response to the original Pac-Man being “the first commercial video game to involve large numbers of women as players” and that it is “our way of thanking all those lady arcaders who have played and enjoyed Pac-Man.”[96] Namco sued Midway for exceeding their license. Eventually, Bally Midway struck a deal with Namco to officially license Ms. Pac-Man as a sequel. Namco today officially owns Ms. Pac-Man in its other releases.

Following Ms. Pac-Man, Bally Midway released several other unauthorized spin-offs, such as Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and Professor Pac-Man, resulting in Namco severing business relations with Midway.[10][97]

Pac-Man Championship Edition (2007), commemorating the first World Championship

The initial configuration of Google’s Pac-Man banner

Various platform games based on the series have also been released by Namco, such as 1984’s Pac-Land and the Pac-Man World series, which features Pac-Man in a 3-D world. More modern versions of the original game have also been developed, such as the multiplayer Pac-Man Vs. for the Nintendo GameCube.

On June 5, 2007, the first Pac-Man World Championship was held in New York City, which brought together ten competitors from eight countries to play the new Pac-Man Championship Edition developed by Tōru Iwatani.[98] Its sequel was released November 2010.

For the weekend of May 21–23, 2010, Google changed the Google logo on its homepage to a Google Doodle of a fully playable version of the game[99] in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the game’s release. The game featured the ability to play both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man simultaneously.[100] After finishing the game, the website automatically redirected the user to a search of Pac-Man 30th Anniversary.[101] Companies across the world experienced slight drops in productivity due to the game, estimated to be valued at the time as $120,000,000 (approximately €95,400,000; £83,000,000). However, The Official ASTD Blog noted that the total loss, “spread out across the entire world isn’t a huge loss, comparatively speaking”.[102] In total, the game devoured around 4.8 million hours of work productivity that day.[66] Some organizations even temporarily blocked Google’s website from workplace computers the Friday it was uploaded, particularly where it violated regulations against recreational games.[103][104][105] Because of the popularity of the Pac-Man doodle, Google later allowed access to the game through a separate web page.[106] On March 31, 2015, Google Maps added an option allowing a Pac-Man style game to be played using streets on the map as the maze.[107]

In 2011, Namco sent a DMCA notice to the team that made the programming language Scratch saying that a programmer had infringed copyright by making a Pac-Man game using the language and uploading it to Scratch’s official website.[108]

In April 2011, Soap Creative published World’s Biggest Pac-Man working together with Microsoft and Namco-Bandai to celebrate Pac-Mans 30th anniversary. It is a multiplayer browser-based game with user-created, interlocking mazes.[109]

In 2016 an in-app version of Pac-Man was introduced in Facebook Messenger. This allows users to play the game against their friends while talking over Facebook.

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