I am now officially old. Pac Man is 25.
I'm an "old school" video gamer. I remember lusting after a friends Pong set. My sister and I saved pennies for months to get our half of the cost of an Atari 2600 set (our parents agreed to pay for the other half). My first personal computer (which I still have, somewhere) was a Commodore 64 — a state of the art gaming rig at the time.
I can remember spending hours sitting on the floor, marvelling at the incredible graphics as I played Destroyer or Chopper Command on my TV. I remember wasting a LOT of time trying to get ET back home. And I remember Pac Man.
I started playing Pac Man because I stunk at all the other games in the arcade. "How hard could it be," I thought in my 12 year old innocence, "to move a circle around a maze? The maze never changes, and there are only four of the little monster guys!"
I didn't get much allowance back then, so I quickly realized that I was only wasting my money at the arcade — appearances aside, it was a tough game for a 12 year old with little hand-eye coordination. But then it was released on the Atari, and I KNEW it had to be mine.
I practiced. I kept at it, and got good. I was the Pac Man champion of my house. Then I knew it was time to return to the arcade.
All of my friends had been practicing. My puny high score was nothing compared to theirs. I was shamed.
And now, Pac Man is 25 years old. In an age when the quality of the games is measured in how immersive the experience is, and how tight the 3D graphics are rendered, Pac Man seems quaint — just as Pong did to us 25 years ago. But Pac Man did a service to modern gaming that cannot be ignored.
It created addicts. It created an "arcade culture" of people who would otherwise have no social outlet. And it created fans.
Happy birthday, Pac Man. You don't look a day over 16.