Having been a part of the pop-culture landscape for over 30 years now, Pac-Man is a pretty familiar character.
He has adorned cereal boxes, been the star of a Saturday morning cartoon program and appeared on virtually every gaming platform to have ever been released.
That’s not just systems from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. It also includes essentially every cell phone that has a screen, long-dead portable systems and plug-and-play devices for your TV. Along the way, the little pellet-muncher has built an empire that has allowed publisher Namco-Bandai to survive the worst the economy could throw at it.
But even the most well known icons have their secrets. This week, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Toru Iwatani, creator of the game, offered a postmortem on the industry’s biggest franchise-and told a few tales most fans have probably never heard.
Here are the five most surprising:
The point of the game was to attract girls
While today’s player is slightly more likely to be male, gaming in the late 1970s was pretty much exclusively a men’s club. Iwatani wanted to change this, creating something that could appeal to both women and families, he says.
“The reason I created Pac-Man was because we wanted to attract female gamers,” he says. “Back then, there were no home games. People had to go to the arcade center to play games. That was a playground for boys. It was dirty and smelly. So we wanted to include female players, so it would become cleaner and brighter.”
Each ghost had specific orders
When you play the game, it might seem as if the four ghosts are actively chasing you. That’s not exactly true. Iwatani intentionally avoided programming them with that purpose, since that would have resulted in Pac-Man zipping around the screen with four ghosts always right behind him.
Instead, it’s only Blinky, the red ghost, who doggedly pursues you throughout the game. Pinky, the pink ghost (naturally), simply wants to position itself at a point that’s 32 pixels in front of Pac-Man’s mouth. The blue ghost, Inky, is seeking to position itself at a similar fixed spot. And Clyde, the orange ghost, moves completely at random.
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