On May 22, 1980, Namco released a game that would end up changing the world of pop culture, and its titular character is still with us today.
The news that today marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Pac-Man to Japanese arcades serves to me as a reminder of two things. The first is just how far video games have come. The second being just how old I’m getting as I remember playing this game in arcades, grocery stores, pizza parlors and anywhere else they could cram in an arcade cabinet.
Pac-Man was far from the first video game, and it wasn’t even the first to enter pop culture – I’d say that credit went more to Space Invaders – but it is the first I can remember having a hit song written about it.
Hey, I didn’t say it was a “good song,” I just said it was a “hit song.” It peaked at number nine on the Top 10 songs in March 1982, and you couldn’t escape it. To be fair, it was one song off a concept album by Buckner & Garcia that was completely based on video games including Centipede, Defender and more.
Pac-Man entered the pop culture zeitgeist unlike anything in video games to that point. There was a Saturday morning cartoon, cereal, toys, clothing and more. Basically if they could put Pac-Man on a product, they did so, and it sold in droves.
So while it may be cute to look back on Pac-Man now and think of how it pales in comparison to the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, just remember it did help at least bring video games to the masses.
Happy birthday, Pac-Man. You don’t look like you’ve aged a day.