On May 22, 1980, a video game icon made his debut in Japanese arcades.
Friday marks the 35th anniversary of the arrival of Pac-Man, arguably the most recognizable character and franchise the video game industry boasts. Although Pac-Man wasn’t the first video game created, the character is certainly responsible for the medium’s growing popularity during its run in arcades in the ’80s.
In honor of Pac-Man’s birthday, here are five facts about the video game icon:
1. He was inspired by pizza. So, pizza is awesome for various reasons. But one you may not know about is it gave creator Toru Iwatani the idea of how he wanted the star of his game to look. In a recent interview with Time Magazine, Iwatani recalls taking a slice of pizza and noticing how the remaining pie looked like a character. “That’s how Pac-Man’s iconic shape was created,” he tells the magazine.
2. Pac-Man was created to attract female players. Right before Pac-Man’s arrival, aliens were the stars of video game with classics including Space Invaders. To stand out, Iwatani says he created Pac-Man to appeal to more women. “It seemed very dark,” Iwatani said of arcades at the time in a 2010 interview with Wired on the game’s 30th anniversary. “It was for men, it wasn’t fashionable at all. When women would go out, they’d go out in a group of friends or with a boyfriend as a couple. And I realized that if women and couples were going to come to game centers, they had to be cheerful places.”
3. He was originally called Puck-Man. Japanese versions of the game carried this earlier name, but as Iwatani points out to Wired, it was changed to Pac-Man for its U.S. release to prevent vandals from changing the “P” to an “F” to spell — well, you know.
4. It’s the most successful coin-operated arcade machine ever.According to Guinness World Records, more than 293,000 Pac-Man machines were built and installed worldwide between 1981 and 1987. Since its launch, the game has been played an estimated 10 billion times.
5. There is a maximum high score. It’s 3,333,360, according to the official Pac-Man website.
6. There’s even a song devoted to Pac-Man. At the height of the video game’s popularity, songwriters Buckner & Garcia released the song Pac-Man Fever in 1982.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.