Way back in the stone age (1980), a little arcade company called Namco released the game Pac-Man, which quickly took arcades by storm not only in its homeland Japanthe United States but also and the rest of the world. The original game was programmed by Toru Iwatani and the Japanese name, Pakkuman, is a derivative of the Japanese onomatopoeia “pakku pakku,” quickly opening and closing one’s mouth.
Pac-Man was an important part of gaming not only because of 1980’s nostalgia and pop culture, but also because it was one of the first games to draw women into arcades and gaming in general. At a time when arcades were dominated by the likes of Pong and Space Invaders, Pac-Man was a breath of fresh air because it didn’t rely on violence or masculine themes to draw in its audience, making it a more inclusive game and more attractive to girls.
The brand has since grown to sequels and spin-offs like Miss Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, and Pac-Pix. While Pac-Man is not as popular today, it is still one of gaming’s most iconic characters. According to the Davie Brown Celebrity Index, 94% of American consumers recognize the yellow chomper, over Ben Affleck and Ashley Judd. That is brand recognition to rival the likes of Mario or Coca-Cola, and even more impressive considering that Pac-Man hasn’t been a major player in the video game market for some time.
That isn’t to say that Pac-Man has lost all of his steam. These days, when he isn’t appearing as a guest character, Pac-Man usually appears in his own mobile games. In 2011 there was a mobile/social game version of Pac-Man called Pac-Man S, though this game was pulled from Facebook and iOS by 2013, but by then we got Pac-Man Dash! as well as Pac-Man + Tournaments which were also for mobile-game platforms. There was also a 2014 Pac-Man game called Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2, available for the likes of Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U. Pac-Man also has been included in countless Namco arcade collections, and it seems like we get a new one every year or so.
Pac-Man recently appeared in Street Fight X Tekken, Mario Cart 8, and Super Smash Bros. as a guest character, showing that the little yellow head can take a bite out of more than just ghosts and power pellets. In fact, Pac-Man is one of the most common guest characters in video games and often makes cameo appearances even in games of rival companies.
I’m not going to say that Pac-Man saved the video game industry the way that Mario Bros. and the original Nintendo did, but he has certainly left a massive impact not only on the gaming industry and pop culture. I am sure that he will outlive many of us at APGNation, but as hard as we try we just don’t have the staying potential of a pizza missing a slice that eats ghosts and pills in an unending Kafkaesque labyrinth.
And that, gamers, is my cue to “wakka wakka” right on back to the summer sun. Have a good one, Nation! And don’t forget to visit your local arcade and pay homage to this god of gaming!