In 1980, Namco game designer Moru Iwatani is tired of the glut of shoot-em-ups littering the arcades. He wants to create an arcade game that looks more like a cartoon than a videogame, and appeals to women as well as men. His original design calls for an animated pizza with a missing wedge for a mouth running around a maze eating everything in sight. Technological restraints at the time, however, require a graphics scale-back to a simple, solid yellow circle. The large wedge of a mouth does remain, though, and the character and game is christened Puckman, from the Japanese phrase pakupaku, meaning to flap one's mouth open and close. After the distinctive theme music plays, players find themselves guiding Puckman around a single maze eating dots, while avoiding the four ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde (each with varying levels of hunting skills), who escape from a cage in the middle of the screen and will end our little yellow friend's life if they touch him. In each corner of the square playfield is a large dot that when eaten will turn the ghosts blue for a brief period, during which time the tables turn and Puck can eat the ghosts, leaving only the apparently indigestible eyes which make their way back to the cage for reincarnation into another ghost. During every screen a treat appears for the player under the ghost-cage, in the form of fruit or a bell or some other symbol waiting to be devoured. The game is deceptively simple, with only a four-position joystick needed to guide Pac-Man around the maze, but with each successive screen the ghosts get faster and their time of blue-invulneribility less. Tension is added with a steady whining sound effect that increases in pitch as the game is played.
The game is an absolute smash in Japan, following Space Invader's lead in causing another Yen shortage nation-wide as tens of thousands of Puckman machines start gobbling them up. With its distribution deal with Namco, Bally/Midway has the first option to license the game for the US, but newly-appointed president Robert Mullane amazingly tries to decline the offer, unimpressed with the "silliness" of the game and practically has to be forced by fellow executives to accept the North American Puckman license. After changing the name to Pac-Man in order to discourage vandals from replacing the P with an F, Bally/Midway releases
Ten arcade sequels follow the original game, first of which is Ms. Pac-man, released in 1982. It is developed in America by Midway, and is a more obvious attempt to lure women into the arcade. Instead of one maze, Pac-Man's female counter-part (her identity confirmed by the red bow and lipstick...even a beauty mark) has four different ones, with the special treats roaming around instead of staying motionless under the monster cage. It sells 115,000 units, becoming the biggest American-made arcade hit yet, and Ms. Pac-Man machines still linger in some arcades today. The other sequels are Pac-Man Plus (1982), Super Pac-Man (1982), Baby Pac-Man (1982), Jr. Pac-Man (1983), Professor Pac-Man (1983), Pac & Pal (1983), Pac-Land (1984), Pac-Mania (1986), Pac-Attack (1993), and the brief Pac-Man VR in 1996, a virtual reality 3-D Pac-man game produced by Virtuality Ltd. and released to a few major entertainment centres. The number of console, computer and hand-held translations are too numerous to count. Probably the biggest is Atari's license of the game for their flagging Atari 2600 in 1982. An obvious rush-job to make the deadline for Christmas that year, the translation breaks sales records but is deemed a creative disaster by critics. Thanks to resurgent interest in classic arcade games through the besieged emulation scene, The Yellow One gets the obligatory 3D makeover in Namco's Pac-Man 3D, a three-dimensional adventure game, complete with a 3D rendering of the original's maze, released for the Sony Playstation in February 1999.
1889 is a very important year in videogame history. Yes, that's 1889. It is this year when Fusajiro Yamauchi founds Nintendo Koppai in Kyoto, Japan. The name Nintendo roughly translates to "Work hard, but in the end it is in Heaven's Hands", and the company's products are lovingly
While developing more advanced TV gaming systems and a lucrative line of handheld LCD games called Game & Watch, Nintendo moves into the arcade game arena with some uninspired titles such as Othello, Helifire and Sheriff. 1981's Radarscope, yet another knock-off of competitor Taito's Galaxian, is an interesting but derivative take on the new genre. Working on the graphics for the game, Miyamoto is extremely disinterested in the project. He is much more into another idea he has for an arcade game, the impetus of which is the classic movie King Kong. He starts with a drawing of a rotund little carpenter with a big bulbous nose and bushy moustache. The game he designs around the character is Donkey Kong, which has Shigeru's Jumpman running to and fro across three different screens of metal girders of a partially completed building, jumping over various obstacles and gaps trying to save his girlfriend Pauline from the clutches of the evil gorilla Kong. The big ape's last name is taken from Shigeru's movie inspiration, with the first denoting that he's a few bananas short of a bunch. Working alongside Miyamoto, the hardware is put together by famed Nintendo arcade developer Gumpei Yokoi. In an arcade market that consists almost solely of space-based shoot-em-ups, Donkey Kong gets a cold reception from the Nintendo brass. But Shigeru persists on pursuing the project, and since it uses the same hardware as the flaccid selling Radarscope it can be used as a cheap conversion kit for the 20,000 or so units of that game Nintendo has already produced. Donkey Kong becomes the biggest selling arcade game of 1981,
Two direct arcade sequels follow, starting with 1982's Donkey Kong Jr. An abrupt role-reversal occurs here with Mario as the evil kidnapper, holding poor monkey Kong in a cage, his only hope being the plucky young Junior Kong. Mario doesn't even bother to show up for the rather horrible Donkey Kong 3, released in 1983 . The protagonist is Stanley the Bug Man, protecting his prize plants from a rampaging Kong, back in the villain's role accompanied by some buzzing bee cronies. Further spin-offs occur as Mario is paired with brother Luigi (named after the owner of a pizza joint near NOA headquarters in Seattle), in 1983's Mario Bros.. Utilizing simultaneous two-player action, players can either work together or against each other for points at Mario's new job; a plumber trying to avoid the dangerous critters pouring