What’s in a name? That which we call Ms. Pac-Man is not merely “Pac-Man with a bow!” Inspired by the arcade games in our latest summer campaign, we learned the topsy-turvy history behind the ghost-chasing gal who made history and ushered in a new era of lady arcaders.
It began in Japan, when video game manufacturer Namco Limited saw the successful release of Puck-Man in 1979. American video game manufacturer Midway eventually secured the rights for a U.S. release, and after a slight name change, voila — the pop-culture icon Pac-Man was born!
‘Hack’ to the Beginning
Ms. Pac-Man was created as (gasp!) an unlicensed knock-off. Kevin Curran and Doug Macrae — two computer whiz kids from MIT — modified the code of the original Pac-Man to give the pellet-chomping hero legs, lend ears and feet to his ghost prey, and feature four different mazes. Ms. Pac-Man was still a glimmer in the main character’s oddly non-existent eye, however, for Curran and Macrae named their new protagonist Crazy Otto.
Luck Be a Lady
“It was to our favor that we walked in at the right time.” – Doug Macrae
Rather than risk a lawsuit from Namco for their unauthorized video game, Curran and Macrae sold Crazy Otto to Midway, who was coincidentally scrambling for a sequel to Pac-Man at the time. Midway gleefully snatched up this new opportunity, but not before making a few strategic changes.
Crazy Otto looked too different from the original Pac-Man to be marketed as a sequel, so they ditched his legs for a bow, added eyes, eyelashes, and a beauty mark, and thereby created what would prove to be the most successful American-produced arcade game in history.
The Name of the Game
One more decision needed to be made before this new game’s release: what to call the leading lady. Within just 72 hours of actual production, our fave female went through multiple name changes, going from “Pac-Woman,” to “Miss Pac-Man,” to “Mrs. Pac-Man,” before finally landing on Ms. Pac-Man.
Shortly before the game’s release, Midway’s Stan Jarocki expressed that Ms. Pac-Man was created largely in response to the original Pac-Man being “the first commercial video game to involve large numbers of women as players” and that it was their “way of thanking all those lady arcaders who have played and enjoyed Pac-Man.”
Ms. Pac-Man went on to sell a record-breaking 115,000 arcade cabinets, and in 2009, clocked in at #10 on video game-magazine Game Informer’s list of “The Top 200 Games of All Time.” Their reasoning for its high ranking? It “trumped [the original Pac-Man] in nearly every way.” Score!
+What’s your go-to video game, and how would your fave female protagonist gear up to play?