Pac-man: history and curiosities of the mythical Pac-man

It is possibly the most legendary video game of all time, but surely you do not know all its secrets. Pac-man is a classic that will leave you stunned with some of its most incredible anecdotes and curiosities.

When we talk about video games, there are certain heavyweights that have already left their names in gold letters in history. Without a doubt, Pac-man is one of them.

The mythical ”come cocos” (which is what it is popularly called) has been conquering the hearts of all gamers for more than four decades. It doesn’t matter if it’s on an arcade machine, on a PC, or on a console. Pac-man is Pac-man.

Even the popularity of the saga still transcends today. A clear example is the Battle Royale Pac-Man 99, which Switch Online subscribers can access for free on Nintendo’s hybrid console.

Although Pac-man is known to everyone (even those who are not video game fans), there are certain anecdotes and curious facts that you are sure to be unaware of. What better than reviewing his brilliant career over the decades?

In this report, you will know 10 curiosities and anecdotes of Pac-man that you surely did not know. For example, the motivations of his creator, his origins, or inspirations for him to create the character.

Without further delay, let’s see why Pac-man is so popular, and what secrets this renowned video game hides. Pac-man: History and curiosities of the mythical Pac-Man.

The creator of Pac-man and his true motivation

Oddly enough, the creator of Pac-man was not a video game lover. Toru Iwatani was 22 years old when he designed the original version of Pac-Man, and he thought he would work on pinball machines as an employee at Namco, back in 1977.

After engineering titles like Breakout Gee Bee (1978) and Bomb Bee/Cutie Q (1979), Iwatani made history with the release of Pac-man. This changed his vision of video games forever. He was a turning point in the history of electronic entertainment… and inspiration for Nintendo.

A response to Space Invaders

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, arcades were places where (virtual) destruction was rampant. Most video games were about destroying ships, as was the case with blockbusters from the likes of Galaxian (by Namco) and Space Invaders.

Iwatani’s lightbulb went on, why not create a more comical and fun-focused game? That’s when it occurred to him to take the word ”taberu” (to eat in Japanese), and develop the idea of ​​it. Hence the answer to Space Invaders was born: Pakku-Man (Pac-man).

The reason for the Pac-man design

One of the oldest urban legends about Pac-Man is that his inspiration is a slice of pizza. Iwatani noticed a bitten piece of pizza, and from there he developed the idea of ​​Pac-man. Even he kept saying it himself…until he admitted it was a ”half-truth”.

In 1986, during an interview, the creator of Pac-man stated that it was based on the act of eating, including the term mouth (kuchi in Japanese). Later, he changed the square shape to a circular one, and from there the character design was born. One of many legends that are not 100% true.

Inspirations in the manga

Iwatani continued with his great ideas, shaping what would be Pac-man. After coming up with the character’s form, he went on to design the maze for each level, and the so-called “power pills”. These items are inspired by spinach from the Popeye series, according to Iwatani himself.

Many years later, the creator of Pac-man explained that the character was based on manga and anime that he watched as a child. He even said that the enemies (colored ghosts) were parodies of Casper or Obake no Q-Taro, according to his statement to WIRED.

Pioneer in screen transitions

Until the arrival of Pac-man, all games opted for a continuous experience, without any pause. Iwatani thought that this was “a delay”, and that the player should be given small breaks to have a coffee, stretch their legs or lie down for a while.

Did you know that Pac-man pioneered transition bumpers? Upon finishing a level, we see illustrations and loading screens, such as Pac-man chasing a ghost. The development team was against it, but eventually, they went along with Iwatani’s decision.

“Get me those ghosts”

AI is the heart of Pac-man. As Iwatani himself points out, there is not much fun in eating and eating “power pills”. The player had to get nervous about something … and so Pac-man’s enemies were born: the colored ghosts. And each behaves differently.

This work corresponds to Shigeo Funaki, the main programmer of Pac-man, and the audio designer Toshio Kai. The most curious thing is that each ghost followed a different pattern: follow you straight ahead, surround you in pairs, chase you and then change course… and that’s the magic of Pac-man.

an unexpected success

In its first weeks in theaters, Pac-man was not that successful. Many children and teenagers played it, but the most hardcore gamers were taken aback by the game. The first Pac-man (then Puck-man) arcade machine was installed on May 22, 1980, in a Tokyo movie theater.

The great success of Pac-man would be born in the United States when the distributor Midway decided to choose it over another Namco game: Rally X. Midway was a firm believer in the potential of Puck-man, so they renamed it and began distributing it in the United States. The rest is history.

Iwatani is a humble guy

There is no denying that Pac-man was a runaway success. They managed to sell more than 350,000 machines in just a year and a half, to which must be added income from merchandising, television commercials, and other aspects. However, Iwatani did not profit directly from this success.

Like Space Invaders creator Tomohiro Nishikado, the Pac-man creator was not promoted, nor did he get a raise. The great beneficiary was Namco, which made gold with the profits from Pac-man. However, the creator of him is still a humble guy.

World scoring record

Although Pac-man does not have an ending as such, level 256 is said to be impossible to pass. This makes you have to overcome a whopping 255 levels… and there is a player who completed the game 100%. His name is Billy Mitchell, and he is the player with the longest Pac-man record.

Basically, this player managed to pass the 255 levels of Pac-man defeating all the ghosts and eating all the power pills, fruits, and other items. It could be said that he swept all the elements of the game. His score (highest to date) was 3,333,360 points.

Addictive to no more

It’s been over 40 years since Pac-man was released, but it’s still a hit. And not only that, but he is more addictive than ever. Do you want a test? In 2010, Google allowed Pac-Man to be played on its search screen, on the occasion of the game’s 30th anniversary.

Days later, a study revealed how many hours Pac-man had been played through Google (not counting other sources). Hang on: It took more than 4.8 million hours to play Pac-man. Surely the companies had losses those days… whose’s fault will it be? Ahem, ahem…

These are the most outstanding historical facts and curiosities of Pac-man. We are sure that in the coming decades the mythical Pac-Man will continue to be talked about. We are before a legend of the video game.

Did you know these curiosities and Pac-man facts? How many times have you played Pac-Man? Pac-man, like his brothers Tetris and Space Invaders, is a classic that will never go out of style. And if you don’t believe us, we invite you to play a game right now.

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