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Pac-Man turns 40: This is how the most successful video game was born

Pac-Man turns 40 - the story of the most successful video game - how it was born

Pac-Man is 40 years old today, so we decided to write the story of the most successful video game.

40 years ago, on May 22, 1980, in an entertainment venue in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo, a yellow figure without eyes tried to feed while fleeing from a group of ghosts that were chasing him in a maze.

The story of Pac-Man: How it all started?

It’s not the script for a B-class horror movie, but the straightforward storyline of Pac-Man, the arcade that became a popular culture icon. The idea came from video game designer Toru Iwatani, who at 25 worked for the Japanese company Namco.

From Atari’s Pong , the video game industry had gone to the Space Invaders, who were leading the entertainment trend where the slogan was to shoot everything that moved.

Iwatani saw him as too aggressive and thought about what could attract men and women to the same space. And that was the food.

“At first I considered that topics such as fashion or romance would be more suitable for women, but then I thought they like gastronomy. That was how I focused on the act of eating as the main concept, “Iwatani described to CNN .

The inspiration for the future game came to him when one day he ate a pizza: when he took away a slice, he saw the drawing of a creature with its mouth open. Pac-Man was born.

Pac-Man turns 40 - the story of the most successful video game - how it was born

Its original name was Puck Man

The original name could be translated as Puck Man, where puck is the onomatopoeia of the act of chewing. But when the company Midway Games was exported the game to the US, with good sense, it asked to change the name because it already saw that thousands of teenagers would change P from Puck to F, and the product would sink in ridicule.

Boomed in 80’s

The success of the Comecocos was so great that it still remains the most successful arcade game in history, with almost 294,000 machines sold in the world between 1981 and 1987. The reasons for its boom are various.

On the one hand, the absence of gender. The yellow protagonist does not have any trait that identifies his sexuality, although the name Pac-Man shows that he is masculine.

In fact, within a few years her partner, Ms Pac-Man, was created, who has an eye made up with eyeliner, lipstick and a pink bow.

Pac-Man turns 40 - the story of the most successful video game - how it was born

The innovations that Pac-Man brought

The absence of buttons helped make it easy to play, although everyone knows that each time a level is completed, ghosts are faster and harder to run away from.

Another innovation is the short break between screens, where the Pac-Man and the ghosts present a humorous scene.

The four ghosts, known as Blinky (red), Pinky (pink), Inky (cyan) and Clyde (orange), were programmed to have different behaviors to surround the Comecocos, that if you were smart, you could exploit them in your favor.

For example, red is the fastest, cyan is slower, and he prefers to run away from Pac-Man. And as everyone who has played it well knows, the four large pills on its sides made the pursued a pursuer, with ghosts transformed into blue creatures that the Pac-Man could devour.

A rough ending

When the game is over you see an error screen: after 255 levels you reach a screen that, due to a programming error, is altered with letters, fruits and gibberish in the design.

Pac-Man turns 40 - the story of the most successful video game - how it was born

Iwatani thought that no one could end it and did not bother creating an ending that has any ceremony or tribute to the player.

Who finished Pac-Man first?

The first to achieve a perfect game, that is, without losing lives and with the highest possible score, was Billy Mitchell in 1999, who finished level 255 after six hours with 3,333,360 points.

But then the record was removed when it became known that he had not used the original coin machines but rather a computer emulation platform.

Namco and Microsoft organized a Pac-Man World Cup in 2007 and the winner was the Mexican Carlos Borrego , who was awarded by the creature’s father, Toru Iwatani .

Became a popular icon

The Pac-Man had several sequels, but not all as successful, and several without authorization from its creators.

In addition to the aforementioned Ms Pac-Man , Super Pac-Man (with a larger labyrinth), Baby Pac-Man (hybrid between labyrinth and pinball), Pac-Land (in which the protagonist already has eyes, limbs and runs between cities and fields), among others.

He was cited in numerous films and series, including the protagonist of the inadvisable Pixels , in which he becomes a virtual creature that claims to devour the world.

Its popularity has been so great that 10 years ago, when Google put a Pac-Man in the search engine doodle , $ 120 million evaporated for five million lost man-hours. Hundreds of thousands of people wanted to go back to their childhood trying to defeat four colored ghosts in a maze full of yellow coconuts.