From Academic Kids


For other uses of the term see Pacman (disambiguation).

Template:Infobox Arcade Game Pac-Man is an arcade game created by Toru Iwatani for Namco in 1980. Immensely popular from its first release through today, it is universally considered one of the classics of the medium and an icon of 1980s popular culture.

The game was first introduced in Japan in the autumn of 1980 where it went by the name Puck-Man, derived from the Japanese phrase pakupaku, meaning to flap one's mouth open and closed. The game became an instant hit, and was soon picked up for manufacture in the U.S. by Bally division Midway Manufacturing, and 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 change from Puck-Man to Pac-Man was said to be partially motivated out of a desire to avoid the obvious vandalism that Americans could inflict upon game cabinets by scratching out part of the first letter to change it to an "F".



Pac-Man is a maze game. The player maneuvers Pac-Man, a yellow circle with a mouth, to navigate a maze while eating pills and prizes. A level, or board, is finished when all pills are eaten. Four monsters also wander the maze in an attempt to catch Pac-Man. Each level begins with three monsters in their "monster pen" and one monster above it, and Pac-Man near the bottom of the maze. The monsters are released from the pen periodically as Pac-Man eats dots.

Four special pills near the corners of the maze, known as "energizers" or "power pills," provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the monsters. The monsters turn a deep blue and reverse direction immediately when Pac-Man eats an energizer, and they move more slowly while they are vulnerable. The monsters are worth 200, 400, 800, and 1600 points, in sequence (the values starting over again at 200 each time another Power Pill is eaten), so it is advantageous to the player to try to eat all four monsters each time. If a monster is eaten, his eyes return to the monster pen where he will be restored to normal. The monsters flash white shortly before they revert to being dangerous. The amount of time the monsters remain vulnerable after a Power Pill is eaten varies from one board to the next, but the time period generally becomes shorter as the game progresses, and after many boards have been completed the monsters will actually not turn blue at all when the energizers are eaten (but they will still reverse direction).

Pills are worth ten points each (there are 240 of them on each board), and Power Pills are worth fifty points each. Additionally, points can be earned by having Pac-Man eat a bonus prize (generically referred to as a "fruit," even though a few are not actually fruit) that appears twice during each board just below the monster pen. The symbols change with each successive one or two boards, and their point value steadily increases:

  • Cherries, 100 points
  • Strawberry, 300 points
  • Orange, 500 points
  • Apple, 700 points
  • Grapes, 1000 points
  • Flagship from Galaxian, 2000 points
  • Bell, 3000 points
  • Key, 5000 points

Pac-Man is awarded a bonus life at 10,000 points (the default setting; DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points to 15,000 or 20,000 or disable the bonus life altogether).


While the monsters are bound by the same limitations of the maze, some key differences exist between Pac-Man's and the monsters' movement. For example, Pac-Man turns corners faster than his adversaries; he can also pass through the "tunnel" on either side of the maze unhindered, as opposed to the monsters, who suffer a severe drop in speed.

The monsters have names and nicknames. This list reflects the game's English language version:

  • Blinky ("Shadow") is the red monster. He tends to pursue Pac-Man closely. When a certain number of dots are eaten on the board (depending on the level), Blinky will receive a considerable boost in speed. Pac-Man fans refer to this change as "Cruise Elroy," though the origin of this term is unknown.
  • Pinky ("Speedy") is the pink monster. Pinky usually joins Blinky in close pursuit of Pac-Man, but sometimes lags behind. While Blinky usually turns clockwise around corners, Pinky usually turns counterclockwise, effectively trapping the player on two sides. Despite his name, Pinky is meant to be a male character.
  • Inky ("Bashful") is the light blue monster. His behaviour is erratic; sometimes he actively chases Pac-Man, while other times he will go out of his way to avoid a confrontation, or will even turn and run from Pac-Man.
  • Clyde ("Pokey"), the orange monster, does not actively chase after Pac-Man, preferring to wander on his own path. However, this makes him more difficult for the player to track, putting the player in danger of accidentally running into him. Furthermore, when Pac-Man eats a power pill and tries to eat all four monsters for maximum points, Clyde is sometimes hard to reach before the pill wears off.

In the original Puck-Man, these monsters were named Akabei ("red-guy"), Pinky, Aosuke ("blue-guy"), and Guzuta ("slow-guy"). Puck-Man also had a DIP switch for alternate monster names: Urchin ("Macky"), Romp ("Micky"), Stylist ("Mucky"), and Crybaby ("Mocky"). The monsters are introduced by name during the game's attract mode.

There are a few notable quirks in the behavior of the monsters:

  • If the player survives long enough in a level without being caught by a monster, the monsters will all suddenly reverse directions and each will head for a different corner. This will continue to happen occasionally as long as the player stays alive without having finished the level.
  • The monsters will never go up into either of the two passages immediately above their monster pen (unless they are in their blue vulnerable state). A player being closely pursued can lose his pursuers by leading them to the top of the monster pen then going up into either of the two passages; the monsters will not follow.
  • If Pac-Man goes up into (and stops in) the corner immediately to the right and above his starting location at any time when the monsters are not closely pursuing him, they will never find him, and instead will roam aimlessly around the board until Pac-Man leaves that spot. This trick is used by marathon Pac-Man players to allow themselves an occasional bathroom break.

The movements of the monsters are strictly deterministic—there is no random or even pseudo-randomness in the algorithms choosing their paths. Experienced players have exploited this flaw by devising precise sequences of movements for each level in order to play indefinitely (termed "patterns"). A later revision of the programming altered the behavior, but it still wasn't random, and new patterns were devised for it.

The monsters are called ghosts in the Atari 2600 version of the game, and ghost-monsters in the television cartoon show (see below).

Game details


During the opening boards of the game, the linearity of the game's progression is interrupted by "intermissions"—humorous animated scenes featuring Pac-Man and the monsters. There are three different intermissions:

  1. Blinky chases Pac-Man off the screen. Blinky reappears as a vulnerable blue monster coming the opposite direction, being chased by a giant Pac-Man. This intermission plays after Board 2.
  2. Blinky chases Pac-Man across the screen, but his pelt gets caught on a tack in the floor, and part of it is ripped off revealing his bare leg. This intermission plays after Board 5.
  3. Blinky, with the corner of his pelt sewn back on, chases Pac-Man across the screen. Blinky reappears coming back the opposite direction, naked, dragging his pelt behind him. This intermission plays after Boards 9, 13 and 17.

The "Split-Screen Level"

The game technically has no end; the player will be given new boards to clear as long as he does not run out of lives. But due to a glitch in the game, the right side of the 256th board is a garbled mess of text and symbols, rendering the level virtually unplayable. This glitch occurs because of the way the level number is stored in hexadecimal within the programming of the machine. "FF" (hexadecimal for 255) is the highest number possible to store using a 1 byte number (each hex character is 4 bits, 8 bits is 1 byte). When the game tries to go to a number higher than FF (the next level, which would be 256, or '100' in hexadecimal), such a thing cannot be done, and the game goes berserk.

Pac-Man enthusiasts refer to this as the "Final Level," the "Split-Screen Level," or simply as the ending of Pac-Man. Although there are claims that someone with enough knowledge of the maze pattern can play through it, it is generally considered unbeatable via legitimate means (see "Historical events" below).

It is only through modern tinkering can the details of the Split-Screen Level be determined. As playable through arcade game emulator MAME, some ROMs of the game are equipped with a "rack test" within the DIP switches, which will automatically clear a level of all pellets as soon as it begins. This method not only makes reaching the long-mythical 256th board infinitely easier (thus making detailed analysis possible), but also demonstrates what happens after the board has been cleared.

To wit: because the right side of the map does not exist, Pac-Man and the monsters can move freely throughout the right side of the screen, barring some of the garbled symbols which are fractured pieces of the maze. Other symbols also entail power pills, which must be eaten for the player to continue (unlike the unglitched boards, if Pac-Man loses a life, the pills on the right side of the screen will reset after being eaten). Because the maze fracture blockades are "placed" in many locations, it is difficult—if not impossible—to locate them all.

If the board is cleared, the game restarts from the first board without error, once again repeating through 256. However, while the power-ups and intermissions repeat from the opening of the game, the monsters will retain their speed and invulnerability to power pellets from the later boards.

Arcade hardware

The game used a Z80 microprocessor and a Namco 3-channel PSG for sounds. Standard upright, mini-upright, and cocktail versions existed. A plugin kit called Super ABC became available in the 1990s which added several new games to the Pac-Man system, including different versions of the original Pac-Man.

A disastrous port

Missing image
The Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man was a substandard disaster.

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 ended up being panned by critics as stiff and lifeless- somehow managing 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 may have triggered the video game crash of 1983.

Reports have it that the miserable port of the game to the 2600 was largely 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 lacked polish, but the executives were so eager to start selling the game (due in part to the approaching 1981 Christmas season) that they overlooked its flaws and ordered production of the game based on the unfinished prototype. Atari allegedly paid Frye $1 million for his work.

Unfortunately, the public did not overlook the game's blemishes, and many consumers instead purchased similar offerings from competing video game publishers. The sales figures would normally have been respectable (70% of Atari's 10 million-strong user base bought the game), except that Atari produced 12 million cartridges, which led to a large loss for the company.

Missing image
A screenshot of the Atari 2600 version. Only one ghost is visible in this image because only one is drawn on the screen at a time.

The game suffers from poor design choices as well as limitations of the 2600. It technically only draws one enemy on the screen at a time, so that each of the game's four enemies only appears in one of every four frames; due to persistence of vision this presents the illusion of having four enemies on the screen at once, but they flicker badly. For this reason, the game's instruction manual calls the enemies "ghosts" instead of "monsters". The ghosts are very subtly tinted different colors, but this can be very hard to see on most television sets, and otherwise there are no differences between the ghosts. Unlike the arcade game in which the monsters' eyes indicate their direction of movement, the eyes of this version's ghosts spin constantly. The ghosts move according to much simpler patterns which do not appear to depend on the location of Pac-Man. Pac-Man himself looks more like a wrench with an eye, his mouth continues to open and close even when he is not moving, and he moves up and down corridors sideways. The dots are actually dashes, and the sound of eating them is a harsh tone. The maze is nothing like that of the arcade game, and this version has orange walls and a blue background. The escape tunnels are located at the top and bottom of the screen. The "fruit" has become a two-color rectangle which does not change from board to board.


Marketers from the video game manufacturers were taken completely by surprise by the phenomenal success of Pac-Man in 1980. Interviews with programmers who worked in the industry during the initial golden age of video games revealed that marketing executives completely overlooked the game (and likewise dismissed the classic Defender as "too complex"), while they looked to a racing car game called Rally-X as the game to beat that year. But the appeal of Pac-Man caught on immediately with the gaming public, and the game's popularity outpaced anything seen in the industry before; it even surpassed Space Invaders as the most popular and most influential game of the 1980s.

The unique and original game design inspired game manufacturers to look into game designs that differed from endless "alien invader battle" games. Pac-Man introduced an element of humor into video games that designers sought to imitate, as it appealed to a wider demographic than the teenage boys who flocked to the action-oriented games. Many popular video games of the 1980s, including Q*Bert, Donkey Kong, and Frogger owe their existence to the success of Pac-Man.

Pac-Man spawned numerous spin-off and imitative games. Its 'official' arcade lineage includes Ms. Pac Man, Pac-Man Plus, Super Pac-Man, Jr. Pac Man, Pac-Land, Pac-Mania, the Baby Pac-Man video/pinball game, and the Professor Pac-Man quiz game. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures was later released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Sega Genesis in 1994. Unauthorized "pirate" versions of the game were also created, most notably Hangly-Man, one variant of which replaced the Pac-Man character with the head of Popeye. In addition, soon after the release of the original Pac-Man, many other maze-themed video games entered the arcade market (Make Trax and Thief being the most prominent) and one such game, K.C. Munchkin, was actually withdrawn after Namco threatened to sue its creator, since its imitation of the Pac-Man characters was so blatant and undisguised.

A great deal of Pac-Man merchandise was marketed in the 1980s, from t-shirts to toys to hand-held video game imitations. The game also inspired a 1982 hit single, "Pac-Man Fever."

A Saturday morning TV cartoon based on the game was produced by Hanna-Barbera and lasted two years from 1982 to 1984. It was also the basis for a Pac-Man Christmas special titled Christmas Comes to Pac-Land. In the series and the special, Pac-Man's enemies were called "ghost-monsters" and wore "suits" kept stored in a closet. The "nicknames" given in the game—Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde—became their official names. They were led by the evil Mezmaron, who employed them in his plots to raid the Power Pill Forest. Marty Ingels was the voice actor of Pac-Man.

The Killer List of Videogames lists Pac-Man as the #1 video game of all time on its "The Top 100 Videogames" list.

Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently re-released over a span of more than two decades, and continues to do so. Aside from the original ports for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Intellivision and Commodore 64, official ports were also made for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1987 and 1990), Nintendo Game Boy (1991), Sega Game Gear (1991). The game has also been released as part of Pac-Man Special Edition for the Game Boy Color (1999), Namco Museum Vol. 1 for the PlayStation (1996), Pac-Man Collection for the Game Boy Advance (2001) and Namco Museum for the PlayStation 2 (2001). Only one other title has managed this feat—Space Invaders—although aside from a Game Boy conversion in 1990 and a SNES conversion in 1994, the game saw few re-releases between 1982 and the game's 25th Anniversary in 2003.

In 2003, a new version called Pac-Man Vs. for the Nintendo GameCube allowed four players to play simultaneously. One player used the Game Boy Advance to view the entire Pac-Man maze and control Pac-Man, while three other players used the TV screen and traditional GameCube controllers to control one monster each. The players that controlled the monsters were only allowed to see the small part of the maze that was around them, limiting the view of the monster players. This showcased Nintendo's connectivity feature between the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, and was given away free with the Player's Choice rereleased version of Pac-Man World 2 as well as Namco's I-Ninja and R: Racing Revolution games for GameCube.

In 2004, New York University's Interactive Telecommunications graduate program created a "real world" version of the game called "Pac-Manhattan" where one player runs around the streets of New York City dressed as Pac-Man and collects "virtual dots" (there are no physical representations of the dots in the streets, but a map on a central computer knows where Pac-Man has been and, therefore, which streets have been "cleared"). Four other players play the part of the monsters. Pac-Man (or the monsters when Pac-Man has eaten a power pill by touching a streetsign at certain intersections) are killed by tagging (touching with the hands). Each player has a controller counterpart in constant cell phone contact and are monitored from a centralized location using Wi-Fi internet connections, and custom software designed by the Pac-Manhattan team.

Historical events

The first known "perfect Pac-Man game", in which the player must complete all of the 255 levels with a maximum point score without ever being caught, was played in 1999 by Billy Mitchell. The maximum score is 3,333,360 points.

However, in December 1982, an eight-year-old boy named Jeffrey R. Yee received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if the player passed through the Split-Screen Level. Whether or not this event happened as described has remained in heated debate amongst video game circles since its occurrence. Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could provably pass through the Split-Screen Level before January 1, 2000; no one could.


Missing image
MAD Magazine named Pac-Man "Man of the Year" in September 1982.
  • In Brazil, the game was unofficially named by the children as Come-Come (lit. he eats-he eats, in Portuguese). Also an onomatopoeic, from the sound the character does when walking/eating. In Italy, the same sound is referred as a meaningless Gabo Gabo.
  • Pac-Man, and other video games of the same general type, are often cited as an identifying cultural experience of Generation X, particularly its older members, sometimes called Baby Busters.
  • The secret level of the third episode of Wolfenstein 3D is fashioned after one of the original Pac-Man levels.
  • It was rumored that Toru Iwatani had quit Namco because he only received a small amount of money after creating the game. In reality, he was promoted and as of 2004 is still a Namco employee.
  • The Ms. Pac-Man cartridge for the Atari 2600 was vastly superior to the original Pac-Man. Over the years, Atari hobbyists have reverse-engineered the Ms. Pac-Man cartridge's graphics and colors to make the game resemble the original Pac-Man more closely. While this is technically a copyright violation (see MAME), the altered ROM has been a popular item among collectors of original 2600 games.
  • In the popular video game oriented web cartoon Penny Arcade, Gabe is almost always seen wearing a yellow shirt with a black outline of Pac-Man. Other strips reveal that his room is decorated with Pac-Man sheets and matching curtains, and his car's liscense plate reads "PCMNFN" (Pac-Man Fan). Mike Krahulik, the Penny Arcade artist who uses Gabe as an alter-ego actually has a tattoo of Pac-Man eating pellets around his arm.
  • Also, the Namco character Klonoa always wears a blue cap with a little Pac-Man on it. Curiously, this mark was erased in Namco x Capcom, in which Pac-Man's only appearance is as a statue in a single stage (Some fans might use Pac-Man's playable appearance in MarioKart Arcade GP as an explanation for his total absence in Namco x Capcom, seeing as he crossed over with Mario instead.).
  • A Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man can still be found in many arcades as of 2004, especially Namco owned arcades.
  • When asked about wearing a Pac-Man T-shirt throughout a Slayer-tour, bassist/singer Tom Araya was quoted saying that he wore the shirt because he considers Pac-Man the most violent game ever, since there's no other game where you have to eat your enemies.
  • For many years, Pac-Man has served as the video game mascot for Namco.
  • Pac-Man was one of the most widely bootlegged games in the early 80's; these bootlegged versions often had significant differences in how the monsters ran their patterns.

Songs inspired by Pac-Man


Because of its success, Pac-Man has been ported to most video game consoles of its time. Just like the Atari 2600 port, they were done by Atari. Here are screenshots of some of these ports:

See also

External link

  • [1] ( Pac Man entry on the Killer List of Videogames
  • [2] ( Washington Post article on Pac-man's 25th birthday (22 Jun 2005)

de:Pac-Man es:Pac-Man fr:Pac-Man he:פק מן nl:Pacman ja:パックマン fi:Pac-Man


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