Prepare to feel old: Pac-Man turns 35
On May 22, 1980, a game was introduced to the Japanese arcades that would change the world.
So yeah, prepare to feel old, as Pac-Man turns 35.
The game was developed by a Namco employee named Toru Iwatani and a team of nine others. It took them just over a year, and was based on the concept of eating. To the Japanese, the original name, Pakkuman, is actually an approximation of the sound made when a mouth is opened and closed in quick succession. The sound is known by the slang paku-paku taberu.
Pac-Man’s design is also meant to be a rounding of the Japanese symbol for mouth, which looks like a square with two tiny lines on the bottom that look something like legs. In America, that shape was more reminiscent of a hockey puck, leading to Pac-Man’s original American name, “Puck-Man.”
As anyone that has seen Scott Pilgrim vs The World – and if you haven’t we can’t be friends – then you probably know that the name was changed once more when vandals continued to change the “P” to an “F.”
The design for the cute ghosts was meant as a way to make the game more appealing to women. Although the demographic has shifted a bit, there have always been more male than female gamers, and in 1980, it was even more pronounced.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary on Friday, May 22, there will be several events held around the world.
The most notable of these will be held in Chicago, where Iwatani himself will be at a new restaurant known as Level 257. For those that don’t get the reference, the original Pac-Man had a kill screen, or a split screen. When gamers hit the 256th level, half of the screen would display random text and it would become unplayable.
Iwatani will be joined by several gaming VIPs, the guy that created the song “Pac-Man Fever,” and Billy Mitchell, the first guy to ever record a perfect game on Pac-Man.
There will be other celebrations as well.
All Dave & Buster’s locations will offer free play on the Pac-Man Battle Royale arcade games to all guests with a power card. In Spain, four YouTube stars will go head to head. The UK might have the most ambitious plan though.
It’s not entirely clear how, but Pac-Man will apparently be launched into space while wearing a GoPro. That should be interesting.
In the US, Sony will celebrate by reminding people that the character plays an important part in the terrible looking Adam Sandler film, Pixels. We’ve all done stupid things on a birthday. Maybe this is Pac-Man’s.
The official announcement also came with some more info on the movie, but who cares.
Happy birthday, Pakkuman!