Pac-Man Video Game

10 Little-Known FACTS ABOUT PAC-MAN

by Mark Nobes

1. Pac-Man Was Originally Called Puck-Man

Unbelieveably, the original Japanese arcade release of Pac-Man was called Puck-Man, because his shape resembles a hockey puck. The name was quickly changed, though, as "Puck" is obviously too similar to a rude English word beginning with F, and it would have been highly likely that the arcade cabinets would have been defaced by kids with marker pens. The Japanese phrase "Paku-paku" means "eat energetically", which was the inspiration for the Pac-Man name. 

2. Pac-Man was Designed to AtTract Women

But not in a sexual manner, I hasten to add! Many video games from the early 80s were based on violent space and war themes, and also male sports. Tori Iwatani wanted to create a game for women and younger players, with loveable kawaii (cute) style characters, but without alienating the male audience. Yellow was chosen for Pac-Man, as it is bright but gender neutral, and all of the characters were designed to be cute and colourful with expressive doe eyes for the ghosts.

3. The Design of Pac-Man was Inspired by A Pizza

The designer, Toru Iwatani, was researching food themes as he thought they were appealing to women. During his research, he noticed a picture of a pizza with a slice cut out, which was his inspiration for the design of Pac-Man. He was also inspired by "kawaii", the Japanese culture of cuteness. The ghosts were partly inspired by the 1940s/50s cartoon Casper The Friendly Ghost, and the fruit bonuses were based on the fruit seen on traditional slot machines.

4. There Was An Erotic Version of Pac-Man

A unofficial video game called Streakers was released by the Japanese manufacturer Shoei in 1981, and it was pretty controversial! The game was basically a comical maze game, where the player controls a female streaker instead of Pac-Man. The ghosts were replaced by police officers. The game featured in the 1983 teen sex comedy Joysticks, and it's a pretty rubbish movie!

5. Pac-Man Has Been Voted For as The Worst Video Game Ever

Despite the massive success of Pac-Man in the arcades, one version was partly responsible for the video game crash of 1983. The Atari 2600 version sold 7 million copies, making it the best-selling 2600 game of all time.
However, the highly anticipated game was a glitchy disaster, and the flickering game characters rendered the game almost unplayable. It also lacked many features of the original game. Customers returned the game on mass, and Atari was left with 5 million excess copies, leaving them in financial dire straits. Along with E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, this version is regularly voted for as the one of the worst video games ever.   

6. Each Ghost Has A Different Personality

Well, kind of. Obviously, a video game character can't have a real personality, but each of the four ghosts was programmed with different movements so that the game wouldn't become too predictable and, therefore, boring.
Blinky (the red leader) directly follows Pac-Man around, and although annoying, he's quite easy to predict. Pinky (the pink female ghost) anticipates where Pac-Man is heading and tries to ambush him at the predicted spots. Clyde (the orange one) acts in a fickle and stupid manner. He often chases Pac-Man, but sometimes gives up and heads back home. Inky (the cyan ghost) usually only pursues Pac-Man when other ghosts are nearby, but sometimes jumps ahead of him. 

7. The Final Level of Pac-Man is Impossible to Complete

On the 256th level (known as the "kill screen" or "split-screen level") the right side of the maze becomes a jumbled mess, mainly due to an overflowing 8-bit level register, making the level impossible to complete - Pac-Man simply dies at the end. A "Game Over" screen was never created because the designer, Tori Iwantani, thought no one would ever make it to the end. In fact, he didn't even know where the end was because he was unsure when the game would simply run out of memory!
Billy Mitchell and Pac-Man CROPPED
Billy Mitchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

8. It Took Almost 20 Years For SOmeone To Achieve The Maximum High Score

Pac-Man's designers knew nothing of the split-screen problem at the end of the game until 1999, when the first person to achieve the maximum possible high score of 3,333,360, Billy Mitchell, discovered it. It took him over six hours to finish the game. Since then, 7 other players have officially reached the kill screen with a max high score. Development of Pac-Man started in 1979, and was first released in Japan in 1980, making it almost 20 years before the high score was finally achieved.
Development of Pac-Man started in 1979, and was first released in Japan in 1980, making it almost 20 years before the high score was finally achieved.
The score is impossible to obtain unless the game is played in the "perfect" manner, gaining the highest possible score on each level. If you want to have a go at achieving it, then you will need to consume every single one of the 244 dots on each level (including the four blinking energizer dots), every flashing blue ghost, and all point-loaded fruit. Oh, and you must do this without losing a single life, too - good luck with that!

9. A PAc-Man Song Reached No.9 in The Music Charts in 1982

"Pac-Man Fever", a tribute song by musicians Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, reached No.9 on the US Billboard Hot 100 during March 1982. An album of the same name was also released, whuch featured songs about other popular arcade games of the time including Frogger, Centipede and Asteroids. Unfortunately, the follow-up single "Do the Donkey Kong" (from the album) was a flop, stalling at No.103 in the US. 

10. Pac-Man was released as a card game

An official Pac-Man card game was launched by Milton Bradley in 1982. I've never played it, so I've no idea if it's a decent game, although I can't imagine any video gamer preferring to play this over the actual arcade game!  MB also released a Pac-Man board game.