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Pac Man

Pac Man was a video arcade game created by Namco[?], and manufactured by Midway for the US market during the early 1980s. It was first introduced in 1980, and it was an instant hit. It 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, countering the idea that video games were to be marketed exclusively to boys.

Screenshot of the Pac Man arcade game

Pac Man was a maze game where the character Pac Man, a yellow circle with a mouth, had to navigate a maze eating dots and prizes. The level was finished when all dots had been eaten. Four ghosts wandered the maze attempting to kill Pac Man. Four special dots in the corners of the maze allowed Pac Man the short-lived ability to eat the ghost, who had to go back home to regenerate. Some levels were separated with humorous animated cut-scenes featuring Pac Man and the ghosts.

The movements of the monsters were strictly deterministic - there was no random or even pseudo-randomness in the algorithms choosing their paths. Therefore, the game could be played indefinitely by learning sequences of movements (termed "patterns") and repeating them mechanically. Later revisions of the programming altered the behaviour, but retained the determinism and thus the game remained susceptible. In 2003 a new version of the game for the Nintendo Gamecube allowed five players: one got the traditional overhead view and controlled Pac-man; the other four players controlled one ghost each and got a 3-D view of the maze from slightly overhead, with limited view.

A perfect Pac Man game, in which the player must complete all of the 255 levels with a maximum point score without ever being eaten, was first played in 1999 by Billy Mitchell. The maximum score is 3,333,560 points.

Pac Man spawned numerous spin-off and imitative games including Ms. Pac Man[?], Pac Man Plus[?], Super Pac Man[?], and Jr. Pac Man[?]; the secret level of the third episode of Wolfenstein 3D is also fashioned after one of the original Pac Man levels.

A great deal of Pac Man merchandise was marketed in the 1980s, from T-shirts to toys to hand-held video game imitations. A Saturday morning TV cartoon based on the game was produced by Hanna-Barbera.


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