On The Dotted Line At The Pac-Man World Championship

July 3, 2007

Pac-Man, a name with which nearly everyone is familiar. While video gaming hasn’t yet taken over the entire household as the hobby of choice, somehow the mere mention of Pac-Man will almost without fail conjure images of the iconic yellow circle happily (or unhappily – who could tell?) chomping dots while evading and eating ghosts in a variety of mazes.

Just about every member of every living generation at least knows of Pac-Man; since its release in 1980, the game has appeared in pizza parlors, arcades, and eventually on consoles the world over.

Even those who have never played a video game, or those who are old enough to have missed this newly-emerging cultural phenomenon, have at least some scant knowledge of Pac-Man. As the most-played game in video game history, no other game comes close to such recognition – not even the oft-cited Pong – though many developers and publishers still aspire to it.

As with all such things, an entire subculture devoted to Pac-Man arose from its early-80s debut. What is astounding is that this movement still exists to this day, and possibly even stronger than ever before. At the first ever Xbox 360 Pac-Man World Championship, I had a chance to meet some of the old, and some of the new, faces that have defined and shaped the Pac-Man championship circuit for so long, and will continue to do so in the future.

For instance, gaming professional Billy Mitchell was on hand, now with his lovely wife and children, as one of the ten finalists in this competition. Mr. Mitchell was the first person to ever officially achieve a perfect score in Pac-Man, which meant playing through all 256 original levels without losing a single life, without missing a single fruit, and eating every single ghost four times per level, an impressive feat to consider.

It is no surprise that he would have made it far in this competition, as mastering Pac-Man is something that, like riding a bike, apparently stays with someone with a little ongoing practice. Indeed, the community of Pac-Man experts here seemed to be fairly reminiscent of an all-star locker room, throwing each other jibes and jests while offering constructive tips as they all surrounded the classic Pac-Man arcade cabinet in the lobby.

It was interesting to watch how new, younger Pac-Man fans took up residence in the main area, its perimeter surrounded with comfortable lounge chairs, widescreen LCD TVs, and Xbox 360s, on which the newly-revealed Pac-Man: Championship Edition for Xbox Live Arcade was playing, while the original Pac-Man masters gathered at one age-old Pac-Man machine, competing with each other in true arcade A