'Father of Pac-Man' Masaya Nakamura dies: 8 things about his iconic video game

Mr Nakamura, Bandai Namco's top adviser, died on Jan 22 at the age of 91.
Mr Nakamura, Bandai Namco's top adviser, died on Jan 22 at the age of 91.PHOTO: AFP

Bandai Namco founder Masaya Nakamura died on Jan 22. He was 91, no cause of death was given. He left behind a video game legacy that includes the iconic Pac-Man.

Mr Nakamura, who founded his company in 1955 as a provider of mechanical children's rides for department stores, has been credited with launching Japan's video game industry after he went on to develop arcade games in the 1970s.

Pac-Man was subsequently released in 1980, becoming a pop culture mainstay. Here are eight things about the colourful ghost-chase classic.

1. Inspired by eating (and food)

A big hit in Japan and internationally, Pac-Man is estimated to have been played more than 10 billion times. PHOTO: JASMINE OSADA

Namco employee Toru Iwatani, who created Pac-Man, drew inspiration from the Japanese symbol for mouth (kuchi).

Its name was derived from the Japanese onomatopoeia term "paku-paku", which is used to describe the sound of munching.

2. Puck-Man?

Pac-Man very nearly was not called Pac-Man. The round-pizza-with-a-slice missing character was originally named Puck-Man, as it was said to resemble a hockey puck.

But prior to the game's release in the United States, there were fears that vandals would be tempted to change the "p" to an "f" to form an offensive word.

3. Tailored for the fairer sex

Mr Iwatani, noting that arcade games were mostly shooting or war-based, decided to create a game based on a universal concept: eating.

Wanting to make arcades more women-friendly, he worked to create cute and recognisable characters to attract women and girls to play arcade games.

4. Ghostly quartet

Screenshot of Pac-Man with the four ghosts. PHOTO: GAMESPOT

The four ghosts - Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde - that chase after Pac-Man were each created with distinct personalities, so the game would not be so monotonous, according to Iwatani.

They also have alternate names - Shadow, Speedy, Bashful and Pokey - that reflect their respective traits in the game.

5. Bite-sized gaming

Pac-Man's original game file was a paltry 24KB in size - a mere drop in the ocean compared to the file space modern games require to run on.

While those have lavish graphics and more complex coding involved, Pac-man's timeless appeal lies in its simplicity.

6. Super six

While it is estimated that more than 10 billion have played it, only six people can boast of having played a perfect game of Pac-man.

This is done by eating every single dot, power pellet, fruit and enemy over the first 255 levels, before attempting to score as many points as possible on the 256th level, which cannot be completed due to a software glitch.

The first person to play a perfect game was Florida's David Mitchell in July 1999. The latest was Ohio's David Race, who cleared Mitchell's score of 3,333,360 in three hours, 33 minutes and 12.69 seconds in January 2012.

7. Best-selling arcade game of all time

Ten years after its 1980 release, about 400,000 units of Pac-Man arcade units were sold across the world, generating US$3.5 billion (S$5 billion) in revenue.

The figure put to rest Mr Iwatani's initial fears that the game would not be well received in the US and Europe due to its slower pace.

8. All-conquering franchise

Pac-Man in the film Pixels. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Widely seen as the first proper video game character that players could identify with, Pac-Man has seen its franchise run the gamut from film and television to toys and music.

Pac-Man Fever, a pop song about the game by parody music duo Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, hit No. 9 on the US billboard charts in March 1982.

The game has also spawned a sequel called Ms. Pac-Man.