From the arcade halls to the cultural obsession: the story behind Pac-Man

In the story series Behind the Story you can learn the history of gaming, and discover the details you did not know about your favorite games. This time we will discover the story of the yellow circle that became a cultural symbol in the eighties: Pacman

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After being interested in the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout, This time we will deal with the story behind the character that changed the world of gaming when she introduced plays that first addressed women and men alike, became a cultural icon in the eighties and appeared on almost any product you can think about (shoes, breakfast cereals, bed linen) and products you would not think about them Toilet toilets). The character that to this day there is no one who does not know her, but for years you did not know you were still playing games.


Pac-Man's story begins somewhere in 1979, the era when the arcade games industry began to grow and make millions of children around the world spend all their pocket money on game machines like Space Invaders and Asteroids.

At the end of the 1970s, Japanese company Namco moved from producing children's riding facilities to developing its own arcade games. Her first attempts included games such as Gee Bee, and Galaxian - a Space Invaders game and one of the first in the industry to display colors Full. Of course the company hired game developers for work, and one of the youngest was a game designer named Toru Iwatani.

In April 1979, Iwatani began working on his own game. It should be noted that most of the arcade games at the time were shooting games, so almost overwhelmingly, the audience that came to the arcade was mostly buildings. Iwatani's idea was to create a non-violent game that would talk to both girls and boys and be based on the action of ... eating. A little strange idea, but he must have been a bit hungry at that moment.

But Namco probably did not think it was a strange idea, and Iwatani received a team of nine people to develop the game.

Pac-Man takes shape

After the development began, the team began trying to design the main character. The limited graphic technology in the amount of pixels and colors did not give them too much room to maneuver, so the design was especially important.

Rumor has it that one day Iwatani and his crew set out for a pizzeria, and when one of them pulled a triangle out of the pizza, its shape without the missing piece, he gave him the idea of ​​Pacman. (We already said he was hungry?)
Another version claims that the shape originates in the circle of the Japanese sign for the word "mouth".

So now that they have the character, and the concept of eating, it's time to find her a name.
The name chosen in Japanese was Puck Man, Inspired by the Japanese paku-paku, which describes the sound of a mouth movement that opens and closes.


He was and remains only a yellow ball, but the Pac-Man still had a range of lifetimes over twenty-five years of career
He was and remains only a yellow ball, but Pacman still had a lifetime of rolling over twenty-five years of career

As we said earlier, Iwatani wanted to cause both girls to haunt the arcade and play Pacman. This led him to add different elements in the game to make him wink more at women. Thus added to the game of fruit that give extra points, and added to it enemies in the form of the ghosts designed cute.

Each ghost has a different personality, and although it seems like their movement is random, virtually every ghost is programmed to behave differently to prevent the game from becoming too difficult or boring. Every wind has its own name and even a nickname.

The onset of Pac-Man fever

Now the game was ready, and he went out to Arcades around Japan with another Namco game called Rally-X. Namco by the way did not really believe in Pacman, and saw in Rally-X their winning horse. But, when did you last hear about Rally-X? It was Pacman who became Laila. The Arcades were filled with people hooked up to the game, and the situation reached the point where the Japanese government had to issue new 100 Yen coins, simply because all the currencies in the country were stuck in Pacman machines.

In view of the crazy success, Namco decided to distribute the game in the US through Bally Midway, but before that it was decided to change its name to Pac-Man to prevent people from corrupting the machines by replacing the letter P in F.

The beginning was modest
The beginning was modest

Toru Iwatani's plan was successful. Now the Arcadians were full of people of all kinds and types, all loved his colorful game. It became so popular that even supermarkets and pubs across the US set up Pacman machines in their territory, and the madness after the game also contributed to the development of a new market in the form of various merchandises, and it was also the first game ever to have its own cartoon series.

Mrs. Pac-Man joins the celebration

A year later, a game called "Mrs. Pacman" came to the market. But neither Toru Iwatani nor Namco formed the game. So who is? A group of MIT students who worked for a company called GCC created an addition that hooked up to Pacman's game board and changed it into a new game. The gameplay was the same, but now it had four mazes of different colors, and the main character was not Pacman but Mrs. Pekman. GCC turned to Midway, and they were more than happy to buy the board, as they were already impatient to wait for the continuation of the game.

The name chosen for the game initially was Pac-Woman. Because he did not sound so good, the name was changed to Miss Pac-man. But to avoid unpleasantness in the image of the family, for heaven forbid that Mrs. Pacman will be an unmarried girl and make a child with Pacman, the name has been changed to Mrs. Pacman and then shortened to Ms Pacman. A name that is politically correct and does not allow to know whether she is married or not.

Incidentally, this whole story happened without the knowledge and approval of Namco. Midway continued to create games without approval, until finally Namco got tired and they canceled the distribution contract they sold.

The end of the celebration

Over time, Pacman's popularity began to wane, along with the decline in the arcade business in the mid-1980s, but Lefkman had a loyal fan base, so that dozens of games in the series continued to go out to the various consoles over the years. And maybe they did not have the crazy success of the original game, but the brand certainly still exists and a little kicking.

Pacman, the 2015 model
Pacman, the 2015 model

Sveta S. She is developing sites and a gamer in her soul, you are invited to follow her on her YouTube channel GameGems