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Pac Man

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Overview

The icon of gaming.
The icon of gaming.

Originally titled Puck Man, Pac-Man hit the arcade scene first in Japan when Namco released it on May 22, 1980. Shortly after receiving a lukewarm response in Japan the game was released in the U.S. by Midway. Compared to other arcade hits in the early '80s, such as Space Invaders, Defender, and Asteroids, Pac-Man put a friendlier face on its bizarre action and thus had the ability to appeal to a much broader audience.

The basic premise of the game involves the character, Pac-Man, a yellow circle with a slice cut out for a mouth (said by developer Toru Iwatani to represent a pizza with one missing slice, as well as the general idea of a mouth eating). In the 256 levels of the game, the player controls Pac-Man through a maze in which he has to eat up all the dots on the screen. But here's the catch: four ghosts, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, inhabit each level and actively try to eat Pac-Man. If Pac-Man runs into any of the ghosts, a life is lost. If, however, Pac-Man eats any of the four "power pellets" found in the game, the ghosts become temporarily edible. If Pac-Man eats them, their eyes drift back into the center of the level to regenerate into their previous ghost form. Players can also get point bonuses by eating fruit pieces throughout the level. The primary goal is to maneuver around the level and eat up the dots without being killed off.

On July 3, 1999, scoring regulatory body Twin Galaxies recorded Billy Mitchell as the only player to complete all 256 levels with maximum points and no lives lost. This was especially difficult given that the last level of Pac-Man is ridden with bugs, with the right half of the screen featuring only garbled text.

There's no question that Pac-Man is a seminal arcade classic and helped define an entire decade's pop culture.