In October 1980, a little yellow ghost eater appeared in the United States and forever changed the history of video games. This little man also changed my walk from school each day and became my new obsession along with many others.
Pac-Man is by far one of the best video game characters of all time. He is a landmark in the history of video games and his charm must be the reason why.
Released in Japan in May of 1980, Pac-Man was destined to be a hit, but when he entered the video game scene in the United States, he became a household name in many homes, mine included. Each afternoon, I would walk from school and never stop, but suddenly I was asking for quarters to stop at Pizza King Station along the way home. I was not fortunate enough to have a game system at home, so videos were a fairly new thing at that time and, suddenly, I found that I had to try to beat my high score and see just what level I could reach that day without ending.
My friend and I were both from broken homes, and with single mothers at home, we did not really get to spend money on going to movies, out to eat and things that other kids got to do, but we could usually get a quarter, so we needed to get as much play out of it as possible.
Each day as we dropped that quarter in the slot and heard the all too familiar theme song start up, we knew that we had to be at the top of our game. The object was to clear the board without your Pac-Man character getting stopped by the ghost. If you could clear the maze and go to the next level, then you got extra men and that meant that you played a little longer. The maze was hard, but if you could find a pattern that worked and stick to it, you were sure to win. When you would eat one of the blinking dots, power dots as we called them, the ghosts that were chasing you could be eaten by Pac-Man and that earned you extra points and would help you to clear the board easier.
Finding the fruit and allowing Pac-Man to eat it would earn you extra points as well and with each one you were a little closer to earning an extra life and being able to play longer. Oh we became quite accomplished at this game, and we could spend many hours playing. However, that was after school and we knew we still had to be home at a decent time and that we better rush in and get home work done or we might not be stopping each day.
Pac-Man seemed easier to play than many of the other games, and I liked his look. I also enjoyed the music that played. For a while, it took my mind off of the home life that I had and the fact that we were both from poor families. It also allowed us to be doing something that the cool kids were doing, which was a big deal in those days.
Many times, even today, I look for a Pac-Man machine when we are in a video arcade, because I still enjoy playing and am still decent at it. My kids are just amazed that with all the games available today, I would still rather have my little yellow guy that is attempting to eat ghosts. I believe that he was possibly my first love, so the love is still strong today.