I hate coining anything as classic. Such a term is relative, and considering how wide the gaming generation gap is nowadays, many might not even know what game you’re talking about–or only know it, having never played it and more or less missed the chance to. You might think everyone and their mother’s mother has played Pac-Man and that it is irrefutably a “classic,” but that actually might not be the case.
First, some light history: Pac-Man, developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway, was first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. It made it over to the United States a few months later in October. Three years later, on a warm, summer Sunday afternoon, I would be born. I can’t even begin to fathom when I actually played Pac-Man for the very first time, but this image of me at a friend’s roller-skating birthday party comes to mind; I was never a good roller-skater, and so when the other kids went zipping around the rink, doing the “Funky Chicken” or whatever the DJ was blasting, I was wandering around on my own, often finding my way to the arcade room. This was more like a shadowy closet with two to three arcade machines up and running, one of which was definitely Pac-Man. The other two? Who knows. Probably a space shooter and maybe the Claw Machine.
But I don’t have as many fond memories of playing Pac-Man in dark, seedy arcades as I do enjoying it online via Flash remakes or when Google had it as part of their logo image for a day. Sure, it’s a little bizarre to be excited over playing a thirty-year-old game on the latest and greatest technology, but it’s not that bad when you consider how great of a game it is. You are Pac-Man, a little yellow fellow, and you are trying to do two things: eat as many pac-dots as you can and not get eaten by ghosts floating around the map. Sounds simple, but the gameplay works, and can be quite addicting, especially when you only have one or two pac-dots left to devour and an army of ghosts to slip past; there is no tension like the tension of seeing three ghosts begin to surround Pac-Man, and the relief upon eating a power pellet is orgasmically god-like.
It’s an easy game to pick up and play for a bit, and to step away from when you gotta doing something else. Pac-Man himself became quite iconic in the 1980s, and the game is easily recognizable by its colors and minimalist design. It seems to be considered the first game to feature both power-ups and cutscenes; kudos to them. It’s an age-old game that I still enjoy playing today, no matter where I end up playing it: on my computer, on my cell phone, on my Nintendo 3DS. The gameplay remains golden, and I’m glad I was–and still am–a bad roller-skater, getting to actually experience the game as it was meant to be played: in a dark room, engulfed in stark, colorful light, sweaty hands making stupid mistakes, drowning in a wash of never-ending beeps and boops, immersed, caring for the little yellow dot, trying to keep him alive as long as possible.
BONUS QUESTION TIME: Can you name the four ghost enemies in Pac-Man? (Reward: 1,000 XP.)