I Have Pac-Man Fever

Folks we have reached the auspicious occasion of Pac-Man’s 25th birthday. The little yellow fiend has been dazzling us for a quarter of a century now and here at the Shack we are proud to shake his hand whisper congratulations.

For a more comprehensive story you could read this or rely upon my selections to feed your famine.

“But there was more to Pac-Man’s broad appeal than eating dots and dodging on-screen archrivals Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

“This was the first time a player took on a persona in the game. Instead of controlling inanimate objects like tanks, paddles and missile bases, players now controlled a ‘living’ creature,” says Leonard Herman, author of “Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of Videogames.” “It was something that people could identify, like a hero.”

It all began in Japan, when Toru Iwatani, a young designer at Namco, caught inspiration from a pizza that was missing a slice. Puck-Man, as it was originally called, was born. Because of obvious similarities to a certain four-letter profanity, “Puck” became “Pac” when it debuted in the U.S. in 1980.”

I love this kind of trivia.

“Billy Mitchell, the first and only person known to play a perfect game of Pac-Man (he racked up a score of 3,333,360 after clearing all 256 levels in more than six hours in 1999, according to video game record keepers Twin Galaxies) says Pac’s popularity was in its nonviolent simplicity.”

Ok, I could go for the obvious slam at Billy, but I won’t because that could have been me. But I will say that I haven’t ever heard of Twin Galaxies, not that they care because they probably haven’t heard of me either. But there was a time in which I would have given my eyeteeth and my allowance to work in a place that let me play video games for a living.

Billions of quarters later, Pac-Man’s influence continues.

As part of a final project for a class in New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications graduate program last year, students with cell phones and Wi-Fi Internet connections mimicked the game, tracking their movements on a grid spanning several city blocks.

They called this analog re-enactment, where four people dressed as ghosts searched for Pac-Man on the streets around New York’s Washington Square Park, Pac-Manhattan.

“We never had anyone clear the entire board,” said Frank Lantz, a game designer who taught the course.”

Sounds like fun. I wonder if we couldn’t duplicate this on a national level and call it Ultimate Pac-Man live. It could be reality television at its finest.

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