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Originally released in Japan on May 22, 1980 and the United States on October of the same year, the global branding success Pac-Man celebrates his 35th birthday today. The yellow pizza with a slice missing entertained people for more than three decades and has become sort of a cultural icon and ambassador for video games. Despite so much time in the public eye though, there’s plenty of fun facts people still don’t know about the rotund action hero.

  1. The game was created by Toru Iwatani at Namco over the course of a year and was released in the United States under license by Midway, a division of Bally Technologies. Iwatani was 25 years old when Pac Man was released.
  2. Pac-Man was originally branded as Puck Man in Japan partially because of his resemblance to a hockey puck, but the name changed for the US release.
  3. The reason for the rebranding? Midway realized vandals could change the P to an F and make the label not safe for work.
  4. Google introduced a playable Pac-Man Doodle featuring the Google logo as the stage for its 30th anniversary. The software developer RescueTime, calculated time lost to workers playing the doodle at $120 million.
  5. In a 1987 interview, Iwatani admitted that Pac-Man’s shape originated from rounding the Japanese character for mouth, (kuchi). Prior to the interview, he asserted that the shape was based on a pizza with a missing slice.
  6. If the food theme seems a bit heavy, it’s intentional. Iwatani wanted to attract a wider and more feminine audience, so he made the ghosts cute and used eating as a core theme.
  7. Midway created the unauthorized sequel Ms. Pac-Man based on the scraped game Crazy Otto, which was an enhancement of Pac-Man, because they grew impatient waiting for Namco to develop the official sequel, Super Pac-Man.
  8. Because Namco had not officially given Midway consent to develop Ms. Pac-Man, Midway had to give the rights to the game over to Namco. Eventually, Namco made the game officially part of the Pac-Man series.
  9. Super Pac-Man replaced the pellet-eating mechanic with collecting keys to open doors, which in turn unlocked access to foods Pac-Man had to eat to win the level.
  10. The ghosts in Pac-Man have both Japanese and English names. The English names are Blinky (Red), Pinky (Pink), Inky (Blue), and Clyde (Orange). The translated Japanese names are Chaser (Red), Ambusher (Pink), (Fickle), and Feigning Ignorance (Orange).
  11. Each enemy displays unique traits. Red chases Pac-Man, Pink and Blue try to be in front of him, and Orange alternates between chasing and staying in the lower left part of the maze.
  12. As you go through the levels, enemies become faster while Pac-Man slows down.
  13. Certain levels have intermissions after them, such as between level 2 and level 3, which shows Pac-Man chasing Blinky. Think of them as the 80’s version of cutscenes from modern-day games.
  14. The last playable level is 255, with level 256 being an unwinnable glitch-fest. The maze on the right side of the screen disappears, replaced by random characters and symbols.
  15. Each level contains 240 pellets and Pac-Man becomes slower with each pellet he eats.
  16. Pac-Man can turn faster than the ghosts. A ghost must be in the middle of a corner or intersection to change directions while Pac-Man can turn slightly before reaching the middle.
  17. The ghosts have two different modes, Scatter and Chase. They switch between the two at predetermined times. To spot the switch, pay attention to when they reverse direction. For the first level, the first two phases are Scatter for seven seconds then Chase for 20. For the third phase, they scatter for five seconds then chase for 20. After the third phase, the ghosts Scatter for five seconds and permanently stay in Chase.
  18. There is a glitch that allows Pac-Man to sometimes move right through a ghost without having to eat the power pellets. See this video for a demonstration.
  19. The effect that power pellets give Pac-Man last shorter durations as the player progresses in levels.
  20. Pac-Man Championship Edition was Iwatani’s last game before his retirement and released on Xbox Live Arcade June 6, 2007. A day before its release, a Pac-Man tournament was held in New York City with ten competitors from around the world.
  21. The ghosts in Pac-Man move in predetermined patterns that can be learned. It is possible to play the game and completely avoid them.
  22. Billy Mitchell achieved the highest possible Pac-Man score of 3,333,360 in 1999. Since then other several players have achieved it.
  23. Now players compete for the fastest completion time, which Dave Race of Ohio set at 3 hours, 33 minutes and 12.69 seconds in 2012.
  24. Pac-Man and Clyde have cameos in the Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph. Pac-Man can be seen at Fix-It Felix’s 30th anniversary party while Clyde shows up in a group therapy session for villains.
  25. The upcoming Adam Sandler movie Pixels features a short scene showing gameplay as well as another scene with a giant three-dimensional Pac-Man.
  26. Hanna-Barbera produced an animated Pac-Man cartoon that aired from 1982 to 1983. Marty Ingels voiced Pac-Man while future Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen voiced Pac-Man’s cat Sour Puss.
  27. In business, the strategy when a company threatened with a hostile takeover acquires the would-be buyer instead is called the Pac-Man defense.
  28. The Guinness World Records Book 2010 Edition named Pac-Man the most recognizable video game character of all time, with 94% of Americans knowing him.
  29. In addition to naming Pac-Man the most recognizable character, Guinness also named the game Pac-Man the most successful coin-operated game ever.
  30. Pac-Man the character shows up in TRON during the scene where Sark gives orders to an underling. Check out the scene on YouTube.
  31. During development, the president of Namco wanted the all the ghosts to be red and pressured Iwatani to make the change. However, beta testers preferred different colors for the ghosts and Iwatani successfully pushed back.
  32. Whenever Pac-Man eats a regular pellet, he slows down for one frame. Since the game renders at 60 FPS, he stops moving for 1/60th of a second every time he eats regular pellets.
  33. In the first 15 months of its US release, over 100,000 Pac-Man arcade cabinets were sold by Midway.
  34. The music duo Buckner & Garcia recorded an album named Pac-Man Fever. Their single of the same name reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1982.
  35. On April Fools’ Day 2015, Google Maps let users play Pac-Man using the real-world map as the grid.
Photo by Gamerscore Blog, taken from Flickr Creative Commons
Pac-Man: 35 Fun Facts for 35 Years
Article Name
Pac-Man: 35 Fun Facts for 35 Years
To celebrate the 35 years since Pac-Man was released, we delve into the game's history and present you with 35 fun facts about the round yellow hero.
Wallace Chu

Author Wallace Chu

A self-professed tech hipster that loves computers and music. Uses an iPhone ironically.

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