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Pac-Man: A Symbol For An Era


The 1980s. They are everywhere these days; in fashion, on television, and in movie remakes of classic films. Some of the fads of this iconic era deserve our ridicule and our scorn. But many more of the trends that emerged will forever last in our minds as a symbol of our youth, our hope and the exciting possibilities the dawn of that new decade promised.

No trend quite fits this bill like the pac-man arcade machine: an invention that sent shock waves through the video game world and inspired decades of pop culture mania.

A Little History
Pac-man was first introduced in the United States in 1980. At that time, space shooting games like Asteroids were most popular on the arcade scene. Pac-man represented something different and crossed gender lines bringing more girls into arcades to play the popular game. No games looked anything like this one.

Where other games had aliens, asteroids and space ships, this one had a yellow circle and four ghosts — Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde. Your yellow circle had to chomp up pellets and fruit while avoiding his enemies in a labyrinthine maze.

Over time, the video game spawned dozens of spin offs including the equally popular Ms. Pac-man game. There was a Pac-man cartoon, T-shirts, cereal, board games and even a top ten hit single, “Pac-Man Fever.” That kind of multimedia integration had not happened before. Now, we expect fads and trends to come with a host of other products ranging from T.V. shows to children toys and frozen food.

Lasting Legacy
Pac-man continues to fascinate and enthrall us. The pacman arcade machine has found a home in the prestigious Smithsonian Museum of American Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where the game is linked to String Theory. On the video game’s 30th anniversary, the Google Doodle of the day was an interactive pac-man game users could play. The doodle went viral on social media.

Disney XD and 41 Entertainment plan to launch a new show, “Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures,” in the fall of 2013, proving the game and it’s lore still has staying power for the current generation of kids and video game players.

So while some fads from the 1980s we can gladly leave behind — neon Spandex, for instance — others we will continue to embrace, like a little yellow circle gobbling his way around a maze.


About Dangerous Lee

Writer of essays, short stories and Ask A Black Girl. Author of Keep Your Panties Up and Your Skirt Down & The Half Series - When Black People Look White. Webmaster of DangerousLee.biz.


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