Picture it: Sunny South San Francisco, California, 1981. My friends and I are enjoying a chocolate shake at the local burger joint, and there in the corner, beckoning me like a Siren, is the warm glow of the first arcade game I have ever played: Pac-Man. From that first game, I was hooked. Every quarter I ever came in contact with after that belonged to him. Yes, other games would soon follow: Miss Pac-Man (Pac-Man with a bow. How clever.), Donkey Kong, Q-bert (whatever happened to that guy?). But no video game character was and is so beloved as my Pac-Man.
Simplicity at its finest!
The premise was simple. Maneuver your way through a maze, eat as many pac-dots as possible, and avoid the ghosts: Pinky, Inky, Blinky, and their scorned brother Clyde. With Pac-Man, never was I chased by brain-eating zombies; nor did I have to skillfully kill off a velociraptor with some cheap plastic gun. And most importantly, I knew when my character was killed off! Even Pac-Man’s humble beginnings were rooted in simplicity. The character’s creator, Toru Iwatani, looked down at his pizza box with missing slices and poof! The idea for Pac-Man’s shape was born.
Pac-Man had t-shirts and toys. He had a short-lived cartoon series. The little guy had clout! Before there was Halo or Grand Theft Auto in its many incarnations, there was the one-and-only Pac-Man and his posse of colored ghosts.
The nostalgia factor
Pac-Man is to me what pinball machines were to my parents and what the Xbox is to my son. It brings you back to those carefree days when responsibilities were few and and far between.
Why does this hurt so good?
Like any other game worth playing, Pac-Man was addictive. He always had you believing that you could make it to that elusive next level. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever had enough quarters to make it that far.
I watched my son play a video game where his character roamed endlessly, around groves of trees, into hedges. It took FOREVER to find the villains and the action. Where’s the fun in that? If I’m giving myself over to mindless entertainment, I want immediate gratification. Even if Pac-Man died on level one, at least he had a chance to indulge in some pac-dots before he was killed off.
Thanks for the memories
I guess the greatness of Pac-Man was the age in which he was invented….before the internet. It was a by-gone era before search engines readily gave up online cheat sheets. And for this nostalgic writer, that little yellow dot-eating guy will always be associated with good times…and great chocolate shakes!