Welcome to the first edition of Know Your History, a new regular feature in this space.
Consumer market video games have existed for more than 40 years now, and with such a milestone comes a great deal of history. Many of the current topics in video gaming can be compared to events of the past but are often treated as if they are first-time happenings. This column aims to draw on the history of the industry and culture as it relates to current hot topics in the gaming world.
With the recent announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, critics of the best-selling CoD series have been quite vocal. They state that a new Call of Duty game each year is simply too much and that each game doesn’t bring enough new material or changes in gameplay.
30 years ago there was a popular game series that drew the same criticisms in time. Eager to follow up on the record-breaking success of Pac-Man, Bally Midway brought not one, not two, not three but FOUR new Pac-Man games to the arcades of 1982.
Ms. Pac-Man started the march of sequels. Released in January 1982, this first Pac-Man follow-up added more colors, moving fruit and multiple mazes to the popular Pac-Manformula and took the top of the arcade earnings chart with ease.
Super Pac-Man was the first Namco-produced sequel and came out later in the year. Adding gates and keys, bonus rounds and a super pill to the maze chase concept, Super Pac came on strong at first but quickly slid off the earnings charts.
Pac-Man Plus was an upgrade kit for existing Pac-Manmachines in need of an earnings boost, released by Midway after pressure from arcade operators who were facing legal action for installing “enhancement kits” from other sources in order to twart the patterns players had developed for the original game.
Baby Pac-Man rounded out the 1982 Pac-Man games by attempting to merge a maze video game with a small pinball machine. The game failed to make much of a splash and is difficult to locate today.
Call of Duty critics might point at this and note that frequent sequels is far from a new concept in the world of video gaming and has actually moved far faster in the past. Two more Pac-Man-related arcade titles came out in 1983 as well.
Also worth note is the fact that historians blame Super Pac-Man‘s quick fade from popularity to be due to the massive changes in the basic Pac-Man gameplay concept. Ms. Pac-Man, however, changed little to the basic concept of the game and simply added new screens and features while running on the hardware of the previous game. Ms. Pac-Mansold a record number of arcade machines in the United States and continues to hold the record to the modern day. Ms. Pac-Man machines can still be found in many locations across the country, the only one of the four 1982 Pac sequels to do so.
While annual releases to popular game titles may seem like a topic of note to the gaming world of today, it doesn’t mean it is a new concept when one knows their history.