Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Pac-Man was a video arcade game created by Namco game designer Toru Iwatani, and manufactured by Midway Games for the U.S market during the early 1980s.

Pac-Man was first introduced in 1980, and it was an instant hit. It became a worldwide phenomenon within the video game industry, as it shattered the popular conventions set in the field by Space Invaders. It abandoned the 'shoot-em-up action' in favor of a unique, humorous, largely non-violent format that appealed to girls as well as boys.

The name of the game derives from the Japanese onomatopoeic word paku, which is the sound of opening and closing one's mouth. The name was romanized as Puck-Man in Japan, but the spelling was changed to Pac-Man for the U.S. market by Midway since the word Puck was too close to an English curse word.

Screenshot of the Pac-Man arcade game


Pac-Man was a maze game where the character Pac-Man, a yellow circle with a mouth, had to navigate a
maze eating dots and prizes. The level was finished when all dots had been eaten. Four ghosts, named Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, wandered the maze attempting to kill Pac-Man (in the original Puck-Man, these ghosts were originally named Akabei, Pinky, Aosuke, and Guzuta). Four special dots in the corners of the maze allowed Pac-Man the short-lived ability to eat the ghost, who had to go back "home" (a section in the center of the maze) to regenerate. Some levels were separated with humorous animated cut-scenes featuring Pac-Man and the ghosts.


The movements of the monsters were strictly deterministic—there was no random or even pseudo-randomness in the algorithms choosing their paths. Therefore, the game could be played indefinitely by learning sequences of movements (termed "patterns" or "keys") and repeating them mechanically. Later revisions of the programming altered the behavior, but retained the determinism and thus the game remained susceptible.

A Disastrous Port

The first attempt to adapt Pac-Man to the home video game market was a disastrous failure. Atari Inc. bought the home video rights to the game, and it promoted the release of the Atari 2600 version of the game with an enormous marketing campaign. In the eyes of the public, the combination of the world's most popular home video game console with the world's most popular arcade game seemed like a "can't miss" blockbuster. However, the actual Atari 2600 adaptation of the game turned out to be (according to its critics) stiff, lifeless, and it somehow managed to remove the colorful, "fun" aspect of Pac-Man from the game. It was one of two major home video game releases (along with the Atari 2600 version of E.T) that triggered the so-called video game crash of 1983.

Reports have it that the miserable port of the game to the 2600 was largly due to an overzealous Atari marketing department. As Atari planned for the development of Pac-Man for the 2600, some marketing executives approached one of their principal game programmers, Tod Frye, about doing a version of the game. He said he already had a prototype developed and showed it to them. It suffered from a flashing screen and other shortcomings and just basically lacked polish. But the executives were so eager to start selling the game that they overlooked its flaws and ordered production of the game based on the unfinished prototype. Unfortunately for them, the public did not overlook its blemishes and instead purchased similar offerings from competing video game publishers.

Ironically, Atari allegedly paid Frye $1 million to produce the game in contrast to Toru Iwatani, who was only paid his usual salary for creating the original arcade game.


A great deal of Pac-Man merchandise was marketed in the 1980s, from t-shirts to toys to hand-held video game imitations. A Saturday morning TV cartoon based on the game was produced by Hanna-Barbera.

Pac-Man spawned numerous spin-off and imitative games including Ms. Pac Man, Pac Man Plus, Super Pac Man, and Jr. Pac Man; the secret level of the third episode of Wolfenstein 3D is also fashioned after one of the original Pac-Man levels.

In 2003 a new version of the game for the Nintendo Gamecube allowed five players: one got the traditional overhead view and controlled Pac-Man; the other four players controlled one ghost each and got a 3-D view of the maze from slightly overhead, with limited view.

It was rumoured that Pac-Man creator Iwatani had quit Namco because he only received a small amount of money after creating the game. In reality, Iwatani was promoted and apparently, as of 2003, is still a Namco employee.

Historical Events

A perfect Pac-Man game, in which the player must complete all of the 255 levels with a maximum point score without ever being eaten, was first played in 1999 by Billy Mitchell. The maximum score is 3,333,560 points.

External Links