The best video games have it all-- compelling playable characters, exciting yet frightening villains, valuable collectibles, and wickedly catchy music.
The Grand Theft Autos of the world, the Bioshocks, the Elder Scrolls-- they have all those great features and more, but do they really hold a candle to Pac Man?
I mean, why play this-
When you can play this:
Of course, I jest. There's room for every game at the table. Except Fallout 76. You sit in the corner and think about what you've done.
But there’s something addicting, even now, about this flashy neon arcade game. When it first came out, it was smack dab in the middle of the Golden Age of Video Games; that is, the period in time when games like Asteroids and Space Invaders were killing it on arcade machines and televisions all across the world.
Pac Man slipped in and became a hit. Everyone loved Pac Man- it was reported that almost 50% of Pac Man players were women, which was a big deal at a time when most gamers were male. This wasn't an accident; Pac Man was specificially designed to draw in female gamers.
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Pac Man appealed to everyone. It's simple: the player maneuvers Pac Man (or Puck Man in Japan, which mimics the Japanese sound for eating), around a neon blue maze filled with Pac-dots. Eat the dots, avoid the ghosts, and snag Power Pellets or fruits for power-ups and bonus points.
The game holds eight world records, including one for being the most successful coin operated game. Some of the most famous video game record holders hold high scores in Pac Man.
Billy Mitchell, Pac-Man Con Man extraordinaire, rose to fame after reports of his perfect Pac Man score hit the news. Allegedly, Mitchell got a perfect score of 3,333,360 points in the original Pac Man game. This was super hard! The game gets very involved, and it takes a lot of practice to get anywhere near a perfect score.
Mitchell's record was held from 1999 until 2018, when he was accused of cheating and his high scores were erased from the record.
The Man, the Myth, the Legend
Watch Mitchell's achieve his "high score" in Donkey Kong (this was later stricken from the record along with his Pac Man score).
In the end, Pac Man is one of the few games to consistently be made and remade over and over since its inception. Not many game franchises can say they've lasted over thirty years!
Did they know, back in 1980, that video games would get to the point they are at today? Probably not.
And sure, Pac Man is almost the simplest of games if you don't count, say, Pong. But there's a reason it's still being talked about today.
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