Pac-Man as global icon (pictures)

As one of the world's legendary video games marks another anniversary, Pac-Mania shows no sign of ebbing.


Charles Cooper

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Pac-Man as global icon

Pac-Man, first released in Japan on May 22, 1980, was originally called "Puck Man." After its arrival in the U.S., in October of that year, it didn't take long for the game to become a hit.
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Arcade change

In the '80s, the video arcade was the place to find the newest, flashiest games. "Back then, it was a very -- not an inviting atmosphere for female gamers," Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani says in an interview with CNET sister site Gamespot. "It was mostly guys; it was really dark and somewhat...damp and almost, maybe sometimes smelly and all that. I wanted to make a game that would be more inviting to bring in the female users -- maybe couples, like boyfriends, girlfriends, come in to play together.... That was the basic idea."
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The brains behind the phenomenon: Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani. Here's a good Wired interview reflecting on the game's 30-year anniversary. Also, check out this video interview Gamespot conducted with Iwatani.
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The game's name came from the Japanese slang phrase "paku-paku taberu," which, loosely translated, describes the sound of someone munching on food. Creator Toru Iwatami likes to say that his design for the Pac-Man character was inspired by a pizza with a slice missing (though he's also said it involved a modification of the Japanese character for "mouth").
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Friendly ghosts

The game's creator, Toru Iwatani, says he didn't want to make the ghosts look too frightening. "Back then, most of the games that the boys enjoyed involved fierce-looking monsters and aliens, and it was really scary looking. But since the theme was about eating, we didn't want to make scary-looking monsters."
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Avoiding a branding Pac-Up

One linguistic side note: Because of the potential for the "P" in "Puck-Man" to be altered through damage, wear, or mischief, the name "Puck-Man" was rejected in the United States and replaced with "Pac-Man."
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You go, girl

In 1981, Ms. Pac-Man was released, with a female Pac-Man character sporting a hair bow. The game featured new maze patterns, along with some semirandom movement for the ghosts, which meant gamers could no longer rely on beating set movement patterns to progress to higher levels. The game was such a hit that it outsold the original Pac-Man.
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Political Pac-Man

Pac-Man has entered the popular culture globally in many different ways. Here's one example. On April 18, 2011, in Budapest, Hungary's parliament adopted a controversial new constitution, despite criticism that it would destroy the country's system of checks and balances. Here, people wearing the orange color of the ruling, center-right Fidesz party gather to form a giant Pac-Man figure that's gobbling up a sign that represents the rule of law. That's the parliament building in the background.
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Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao

During the course of an extraordinary boxing career, Filipino fighter Manny Pacquiao won 10 world titles. He also was the first boxer to win the lineal championships in four weight classes. In devouring one opponent after another, Pacquiao has adopted the sobriquet Pac-Man.
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Mobile munching

There are now iPhone and iPad versions of the game. This is a screenshot from the iPhone version of Pac-Man Remix.
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A person plays a version of the Ms. Pac-Man game using a joystick peripheral.
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Portuguese hip-hop musician Pac Man performs at a music festival in Lisbon.
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Pop art

Pac-Man as cultural icon. This combo image shows the 14 video games acquired by New York's Museum of Modern Art for an exhibition this year. Pac-Man, Tetris, Another World, Myst, SimCity 2000, Vib-ribbon, The Sims, Katamari Damacy, EVE Online, Dwarf Fortress, Portal, flOw, Passage, and Canabalt entered MoMA's collection as part of the institution's ongoing research on interaction design.
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Tough economic times in Spain bring out a demonstrator dressed in a costume that combines a Pac-Man ghost with a mask of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The protester was taking part in a May Day march in the center of Barcelona this year, against the government's austerity policies.
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Pac-Man has moved far beyond its origins in the game arcades. In the above image, a woman plays Pac Man World 3 powered by an XBox 360 game console in the Microsoft exhibit area at the E3 Expo.
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Gobbling for a good cause

"Pac-Can Man vs. Jello Ghost," a Pac-Man scene made up of cans and other containers, is displayed during a 2005 exhibit at the New York Design Center. Architects, engineers, and contractors competed to design and build giant structures made with canned food. At the end of the competition, all the food was donated to the Food Bank for New York City.
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Mind the ghost

Two girls stand with a cardboard ghost costume on London's Tube after leaving the MCM London Comic Con in East London on October 29, 2011.
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Don't know art, but I know what I like

A journalist tries out the original version of Pac-Man at the 2012 exhibition The Art of Video Games, at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The Art of Video Games was one of the first exhibitions to explore the evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.

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