Pac-Man (Japanese: パックマン Hepburn: Pakkuman) is an arcade game developed by Namco and first released in Japan in May 1980.[3][5] It was created by Japanese video game designer Toru Iwatani. It was licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway and released in October 1980. Immensely popular from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is considered one of the classics of the medium, and an icon of 1980s popular culture.[7][8][9][10] Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, Pac-Man derivatives—became a social phenomenon[11] that yielded high sales of merchandise and inspired a legacy in other media, such as the Pac-Man animated television series and the top-ten hit single "Pac-Man Fever".[13] Pac-Man was popular in the 1980s and 1990s and is still played in the 2010s.

When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters, in particular, Space Invaders and Asteroids. The most visible minority were sports games that were mostly derivatives of Pong. Pac-Man succeeded by creating a new genre.[15] Pac-Man is often credited with being a landmark in video game history and is among the most famous arcade games of all time.[16] It is also one of the highest-grossing video games of all time,[17] having generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.[18][19]

The character has appeared in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs,[21] as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs.[23] According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them.[25] Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games. It is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.[26] and New York's Museum of Modern Art.[27]

Gameplay

The player controls Pac-Man through a maze, eating pac-dots (also called biscuits or just dots). When all pac-dots are eaten, Pac-Man is taken to the next stage. Between some stages, one of three intermission animations plays.[28] Four enemies (Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde) roam the maze, trying to catch Pac-Man. If an enemy touches Pac-Man, he loses a life. Whenever Pac-Man occupies the same tile as an enemy, he is considered to have collided with that ghost. When all lives have been lost, the game ends. Pac-Man is awarded a single bonus life at 10,000 points by default—DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points or disable the bonus life altogether.

Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the enemies. The enemies turn deep blue, reverse direction and usually move more slowly. When an enemy is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the center box where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue enemies flash white to signal that they are about to become dangerous again and the length of time for which the enemies remain vulnerable varies from one stage to the next, generally becoming shorter as the game progresses. In later stages, the enemies go straight to flashing, bypassing blue, which means that they can only be eaten for a short amount of time, although they still reverse direction when a power pellet is eaten; in even later stages, the ghosts do not become edible (i.e., they do not change color and still make Pac-Man lose a life on contact), but they still reverse direction.

Enemies

The enemies in Pac-Man are known variously as "monsters" and "ghosts".[30][32][34] Despite the seemingly random nature of the enemies, their movements are strictly deterministic, which players have used to their advantage. In an interview, creator Toru Iwatani stated that he had designed each enemy with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play.[35] More recently, Iwatani described the enemy behaviors in more detail at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. He stated that the red enemy chases Pac-Man, and the pink and blue enemies try to position themselves in front of Pac-Man's mouth.[36] Although he claimed that the orange enemy's behavior is random, a careful analysis of the game's code reveals that it actually chases Pac-Man most of the time, but also moves toward the lower-left corner of the maze when it gets too close to Pac-Man.

Although Midway's 1980 flyer for Pac-Man used both the terms "monsters" and "ghost monsters",[30] the term "ghosts" started to become more popular after technical limitations in the Atari 2600 version caused the antagonists to flicker and seem ghostlike, leading them to be referred to in the manual as "ghosts", and they have most frequently been referred to as ghosts in English ever since.[37]

ColorPac Man (Original)Pac-Man (English version)
Character
(Personality)
TranslationNicknameTranslationAlternate
Character
Alternate
Nickname
Character
(Personality)
Nickname
RedOikake (追いかけ)ChaserAkabei (赤ベイ)Red guyUrchinMackyShadowBlinky
PinkMachibuse (待ち伏せ)AmbusherPinky (ピンキー)Pink guyRompMickySpeedyPinky
CyanKimagure (気まぐれ)FickleAosuke (青助)Blue guyStylistMuckyBashfulInky
OrangeOtoboke (お惚け)StupidGuzuta (愚図た)Slow guyCrybabyMockyPokeyClyde

Die screen

Pac-Man was designed to have no ending – as long as at least one life was left, the game should be able to go on indefinitely. However, a bug keeps this from happening: Normally, no more than seven fruit are displayed on the HUD at the bottom of the screen at any given time. But when the internal level counter, which is stored in a single byte (eight bits), reaches 255, the subroutine that draws the fruit erroneously "rolls over" this number to zero when it is determining the number of fruit to draw, using fruit counter = internal level counter + 1. Normally, when the fruit counter is below eight, the drawing subroutine draws one fruit for each level, decrementing the fruit counter until it reaches zero. When the fruit counter has overflowed to zero, the first decrement sets the fruit counter back to 255, causing the subroutine to draw a total of 256 fruit instead of the maximum of seven.

This corrupts the bottom of the screen and the entire right half of the maze with seemingly random symbols and tiles, overwriting the values of edible dots which makes it impossible to eat enough dots to beat the level. Because this effectively ends the game, this "split-screen" level is often referred to as the "kill screen". There are 114 dots on the left half of the screen, nine dots on the right, and one bonus key, totaling 6,310 points. When all of the dots have been cleared, nothing happens. The game does not consider a level to be completed until 244 dots have been eaten. Each time a life is lost, the nine dots on the right half of the screen get reset and can be eaten again, resulting in an additional 90 points per extra man. In the best-case scenario (five extra men), 6,760 points will be the maximum score possible, but only 168 dots can be harvested, and that is not enough to change levels. Four of the nine dots on the right half of the screen are invisible, but can be heard when eaten. Some dots are invisible but the rest can be seen, although some are a different color from normal. One method for safely clearing this round is to trap the ghosts. To trap the three important ghosts, the player must begin by going right until Pac-man reaches a blue letter 'N', then he goes down. He keeps going down until he reaches a blue letter 'F', then he goes right. He keeps going right until he reaches a yellow 'B', then he goes down again. When executed properly, Pac-Man will hit an invisible wall almost immediately after the last turn is made. Eventually, the red ghost will get stuck. The pink ghost follows a few seconds later. The blue ghost will continue to move freely for several moments until the next scatter mode occurs. At that point, it will try to reach some location near the right edge of the screen and get stuck with the pink and red ghost instead. The orange ghost is the only one still on the loose, but he is no real threat since he runs to his corner whenever Pac-Man gets close so that it is easy to eat all the dots.[39]:ch5 Emulators and code analysis have revealed what would happen if this 256th level is cleared: the fruit and intermissions would restart at level 1 conditions, but the enemies would retain their higher speed and invulnerability to power pellets from the higher stages.[40]

Perfect play

A perfect Pac-Man game occurs when the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 255 levels (by eating every possible dot, power pellet, fruit, and enemy) without losing a single life, and using all extra lives to score as many points as possible on Level 256.[41][43]

The first person to achieve this score is Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida, who performed the feat in about six hours.[43][45] Since then, six other players have attained the maximum score in increasingly faster times. As of 2016, the world record, according to Twin Galaxies, is held by David Race, who in 2013 attained the maximum possible score of 3,333,360 points in 3 hours, 28 minutes, and 49 seconds.[46][47]

In December 1982, an eight-year-old boy, Jeffrey R. Yee, supposedly received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if he had passed the unbeatable Split-Screen Level.[43] In September 1983, Walter Day, chief scorekeeper at Twin Galaxies, took the US National Video Game Team on a tour of the East Coast to visit video game players who claimed they could get through the Split-Screen Level. No video game player could demonstrate this ability. In 1999, Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could pass through the Split-Screen Level before January 1, 2000. The prize was never claimed.[43]

Development

The game was developed primarily by a young Namco employee named Toru Iwatani over the course of a year, beginning in April 1979, employing a nine-man team. It was based on the concept of eating, and the original Japanese title is Pakkuman (パックマン), inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic phrase paku-paku taberu (パクパク食べる),[49] where paku-paku describes (the sound of) the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession.[50][6]

Although Iwatani has repeatedly stated that the character's shape was inspired by a pizza missing a slice,[11] he admitted in a 1986 interview that this was a half-truth and the character design also came from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi ().[52] Iwatani attempted to appeal to a wider audience—beyond the typical demographics of young boys and teenagers. His intention was to attract girls to arcades because he found there were very few games that were played by women at the time.[6] This led him to add elements of a maze, as well as cute ghost-like enemy characters. Eating to gain power, Iwatani has said, was a concept he borrowed from Popeye.[6] The result was a game he named Puck Man[54] as a reference to the main character's hockey puck shape. Later in 1980, the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States by Bally division Midway,[52] which changed the game's name from Puck Man to Pac-Man in an effort to avoid vandalism from people changing the letter 'P' into an 'F' to form the word fuck.[54][55] The cabinet artwork was also changed and the pace and level of difficulty increased to appeal to western audiences.[54]

Reception

When first launched in Japan by Namco in 1980, the game received a lukewarm response, as Space Invaders and other similar games were more popular at the time.[15] However, Pac-Man's success in North America in the same year took competitors and distributors completely by surprise. Marketing executives who saw Pac-Man at a trade show prior to release completely overlooked the game (along with the now-classic Defender), while they looked to a racing car game called Rally-X as the game to outdo that year.[6] The appeal of Pac-Man was such that the game caught on immediately with the public; it quickly became far more popular than anything seen in the game industry up to that point. Pac-Man outstripped Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game in North America,[6][58] grossing over $1 billion in quarters within a year,[18][59] by the end of 1980,[60] surpassing the revenues grossed by the then highest-grossing film Star Wars.[62]

More than 350,000 Pac-Man arcade cabinets were sold[63][64] (retailing at around $2400 each)[66] for $1 billion within 18 months of release[63] (inflation adjusted: $2.4 billion in 2011).[67] By 1982, the game had sold 400,000 arcade machines worldwide and an estimated 7 billion coins had been inserted into Pac-Man machines.[68] In addition, United States revenues from Pac-Man licensed products (games, T-shirts, pop songs, wastepaper baskets, etc.) exceeded $1 billion[68] (inflation adjusted: $2.33 billion in 2011).[67] The game was estimated to have had 30 million active players across the United States in 1982.[69]

Toward the end of the 20th century, the arcade game's total gross consumer revenue had been estimated by Twin Galaxies at more than 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion),[18][19] making it the highest-grossing video game of all time.[17] In 2016, USgamer calculated that the machines' inflation-adjusted takings were equivalent to $7.68 billion.[70] In January 1982, the game won the overall Best Commercial Arcade Game award at the 1981 Arcade Awards.[71] In 2001, Pac-Man was voted the greatest video game of all time by a Dixons poll in the UK.[72] The readers of Killer List of Videogames name Pac-Man as the No. 1 video game on its "Top 10 Most Popular Video games" list, the staff name it as No. 18 on its "Top 100 Video Games" list, and Ms. Pac-Man is given similar recognition.[73]

Impact

The game is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time,[75][76] for a number of reasons: its titular character was the first original gaming mascot, the game established the maze chase game genre, it demonstrated the potential of characters in video games, it opened gaming to female audiences, and it was gaming's first licensing success. In addition, it was the first video game to feature power-ups,[77] and it is frequently credited as the first game to feature cut scenes, in the form of brief comical interludes about Pac-Man and Blinky chasing each other around during those interludes,[78]:2 though Space Invaders Part II employed a similar technique that same year.[79] Pac-Man is also credited for laying the foundations for the stealth game genre, as it emphasized avoiding enemies rather than fighting them,[80] and had an influence on the early stealth game Metal Gear, where guards chase Solid Snake in a similar manner to Pac-Man when he is spotted.[81]

Legacy

Pac-Man has also influenced many other games, ranging from the sandbox game Grand Theft Auto (where the player runs over pedestrians and gets chased by police in a similar manner)[82] to early first-person shooters such as MIDI Maze (which had similar maze-based gameplay and character designs).[78]:5[84] Game designer John Romero credited Pac-Man as the game that had the biggest influence on his career;[85] Wolfenstein 3D was similar in level design[86] and featured a Pac-Man level from a first-person perspective,[87][88] while Doom had a similar emphasis on mazes, power-ups, killing monsters, and reaching the next level.[90] Pac-Man also influenced the use of power-ups in later games such as Arkanoid.[91]

Remakes and sequels

Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently published for over three decades, having been remade on numerous platforms and spawned many sequels. Re-releases include ported and updated versions of the original arcade game. Numerous unauthorized Pac-Man clones appeared soon after its release. The combined sales of counterfeit arcade machines sold nearly as many units as the original Pac-Man, which had sold more than 300,000 machines.[92]

One of the first ports to be released was the much-maligned port for the Atari 2600, which only somewhat resembles the original and was widely criticized for its flickering ghosts, due to the 2600's limited memory and hardware compared to the arcade machine.[93][94] Despite the criticism, this version of Pac-Man sold seven million units[95] at $37.95 per copy,[13][96] and became the best-selling game of all time on the Atari 2600 console. While enjoying initial sales success, Atari had overestimated demand by producing 12 million cartridges, of which 5 million went unsold.[95][97] The port's poor quality damaged the company's reputation among consumers and retailers, which would eventually become one of the contributing factors to Atari's decline and the North American video game crash of 1983, alongside Atari's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[95]

Meanwhile, Coleco's tabletop Mini-Arcade versions of the game yielded 1.5 million units sold in 1982.[98][99]

II Computing listed it tenth on the magazine's list of top Apple II series games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data,[100] and in December 1987 alone Mindscape's IBM PC version of Pac-Man sold over 100,000 copies.[101] The game was also released for Atari's 5200 and 8-bit computers, Intellivision, the Commodore 64 and VIC-20, and the Nintendo Entertainment System. For handheld game consoles, it was released on the Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, Game Boy Color, and the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

Pac-Man has been featured in Namco's long-running Namco Museum video game compilations. Downloads of the game have been made available on game services such as Xbox Live Arcade, GameTap, and Virtual Console. Namco has released mobile versions of BREW, Java, and iOS, as well as Palm PDAs and Windows Mobile-based devices. A port of Pac-Man for Android[102] can be controlled not only through an Android phone's trackball but through touch gestures or its on-board accelerometer. As of 2010, Namco had sold more than 30 million paid downloads of Pac-Man on BREW in the United States alone.[103]

Microsoft released Microsoft Return of Arcade in 1996 and Microsoft Return of Arcade: Anniversary Edition in 2000, and includes Pac-Man as one of its bundled arcade games.

Namco has repeatedly re-released the game to arcades. In 2001, Namco released a Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga "Class of 1981 Reunion Edition" cabinet with Pac-Man available for play as a hidden game. To commemorate Pac-Man's 25th anniversary in 2005, Namco released a revision that officially featured all three games.

Namco Networks sold a downloadable Windows PC version of Pac-Man in 2009 which also includes an "Enhanced" mode which replaces all of the original sprites with the sprites from Pac-Man Championship Edition. Namco Networks made a downloadable bundle which includes their PC version of Pac-Man and their port of Dig Dug called Namco All-Stars: Pac-Man and Dig Dug.

In 2010, Namco Bandai announced the release of the game on Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live game.[104]

Pac-Man has numerous sequels and spin-offs, including only one of which was designed by Tōru Iwatani. Some of the follow-ups were not developed by Namco either —including the most significant, Ms. Pac-Man, released in the United States in 1981. Originally called Crazy Otto, this unauthorized hack of Pac-Man was created by General Computer Corporation and sold to Midway without Namco's permission. The game features several changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. Some consider Ms. Pac-Man to be superior to the original or even the best in the entire series.[16] Stan Jarocki of Midway stated that Ms. Pac-Man was conceived in response to the original Pac-Man being "the first commercial video game to involve large numbers of women as players" and that it is "our way of thanking all those lady arcaders who have played and enjoyed Pac-Man."[105] Namco sued Midway for exceeding their license. Eventually, Bally Midway struck a deal with Namco to officially license Ms. Pac-Man as a sequel. Namco today officially owns Ms. Pac-Man in its other releases.

Following Ms. Pac-Man, Bally Midway released several other unauthorized spin-offs, such as Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and Professor Pac-Man, resulting in Namco severing business relations with Midway.[11][106]

Various platform games based on the series have also been released by Namco, such as 1984's Pac-Land and the Pac-Man World series, which features Pac-Man in a 3-D world. More modern versions of the original game have also been developed, such as the multiplayer Pac-Man Vs. for the Nintendo GameCube.

On June 5, 2007, the first Pac-Man World Championship was held in New York City, which brought together ten competitors from eight countries to play the new Pac-Man Championship Edition developed by Tōru Iwatani.[107] Its sequel was released November 2010.

For the weekend of May 21–23, 2010, Google changed the Google logo on its homepage to a Google Doodle of a fully playable version of the game[108] in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the game's release. The game featured the ability to play both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man simultaneously. After finishing the game, the website automatically redirected the user to a search of Pac-Man 30th Anniversary.[109] Companies across the world experienced slight drops in productivity due to the game, estimated to be valued at the time as $120,000,000 (approximately €95,400,000; £83,000,000). However, The Official ASTD Blog noted that the total loss, "spread out across the entire world isn't a huge loss, comparatively speaking".[111] In total, the game devoured around 4.8 million hours of work productivity that day.[75] Some organizations even temporarily blocked Google's website from workplace computers the Friday it was uploaded, particularly where it violated regulations against recreational games.[112][113][114] Because of the popularity of the Pac-Man doodle, Google later allowed access to the game through a separate web page.[115] On March 31, 2015, Google Maps added an option allowing a Pac-Man style game to be played using streets on the map as the maze.[116]

In 2011, Namco sent a DMCA notice to the team that made the programming language Scratch saying that a programmer had infringed copyright by making a Pac-Man game using the language and uploading it to Scratch's official website.[117]

In April 2011, Soap Creative published World's Biggest Pac-Man working together with Microsoft and Namco-Bandai to celebrate Pac-Man's 30th anniversary. It is a multiplayer browser-based game with user-created, interlocking mazes.[118]

Non-video game versions

In 1982, Milton Bradley released a board game based on Pac-Man.[119] In this game, players move up to four Pac-Man characters (traditional yellow plus red, green and blue) plus two ghosts as per the throws of a pair of dice. Each Pac-Man is assigned to a player while the ghosts are neutral and controlled by all players. Each player moves their Pac-Man the number of spaces on either die and a ghost the number of spaces on the other die, the Pac-Man consuming any white marbles (the equivalent of dots) and yellow marbles (the equivalent of power pellets) in its path. Players can move a ghost onto a Pac-Man and claim two white marbles from its player. They can also move a Pac-Man with a yellow marble inside it onto a ghost and claim two white marbles from any other player (following which the yellow marble is placed back in the maze. The game ends when all white marbles have been cleared from the board and the player with the largest number of white marbles is then declared the winner.[120]

Sticker manufacturer Fleer included Pac-Man Rub Off Game cards with their Pac-Man stickers. The card packages contain a Pac-Man style maze with all points along the path covered with opaque coverings. Starting from the lower board Pac-Man starting position, the player moves around the maze while scratching off the coverings to score points. A white dot scores one point, a blue monster scores ten points, and a cherry scores 50 points. Uncovering a red, orange, or pink monster scores no points but the game ends when a third such monster is uncovered. A Ms. Pac-Man version of the game also includes pretzels (100 points) and bananas (200 points).[121]

Nelsonic Industries produced a Pac-Man LCD wristwatch game. This follows essentially the same rules as the video version, though with a simplified maze.[122]

A pinball version titled Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man was designed by George Christian and released by Bally/Midway in 1982.[123] The spin-off arcade game Baby Pac Man also contains a non-video pinball element.[124]

The Pac-Man character and game series became an icon of video game culture during the 1980s, and a wide variety of Pac-Man merchandise has been marketed with the character's image, from t-shirts and toys to hand-held video game imitations and even specially shaped pasta. The Pac-Man animated TV series produced by Hanna–Barbera aired on ABC from 1982 to 1983.[126] At one time, a feature film based on the game was also in development.[127][128] In 2010, a computer-generated animated series titled Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was reported to be in the works. The show was released on Disney XD in June 2013.[129][130] Pac-Man has also been referenced in the 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where the game's origins as Puck-Man is mentioned several times.[131] Clyde appears in the Disney animated film Wreck-It Ralph as one of the several villains participating in a group therapy session, voiced by Kevin Deters. His cohorts, Inky, Blinky, and Pinky, appear together in Game Central Station for a few scenes, and Pac-Man makes a cameo appearance during the Fix-It Felix Jr. 30th Anniversary party. General Mills manufactured a cereal by the Pac-Man name in 1983. Over the cereal's lifespan, characters from sequels Super Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man were also added.

Guinness World Records has awarded the Pac-Man series eight records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, including First Perfect Pac-Man Game for Billy Mitchell's July 3, 1999 score and "Most Successful Coin-Operated Game". On June 3, 2010, at the NLGD Festival of Games, the game's creator Toru Iwatani officially received the certificate from Guinness World Records for Pac-Man having had the most "coin-operated arcade machines" installed worldwide: 293,822. The record was set and recognized in 2005 and mentioned in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, but finally actually awarded in 2010.[34]

Pac-Man has been referenced in numerous other media. In music, the Buckner & Garcia song "Pac-Man Fever" (1981) went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts,[13] and received a Gold certification with over a million records sold by 1982, and a total of 2.5 million copies sold as of 2008.[132] Their Pac-Man Fever album (1982) also received a Gold certification for selling over a million records.[133] "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a demo song in 1981 titled "Pac-Man" that is a parody of "Taxman" by The Beatles. Jonzun Crew's "Pack Jam" (1983) was inspired by Michael Jonzun's distaste towards the popular Pac-Man game.[134] Hip hop emcee Lil' Flip sampled sounds from the game Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man to make his top-20 single "Game Over" (2004). Namco America filed a lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment for unauthorized use of these samples. The suit was eventually settled out of court.[135][136] Aphex Twin released an EP dedicated to the game, Pac-Man EP, in 1992.

Ken Uston's strategy guide Mastering Pac-Man yielded 750,000 copies sold, reaching No. 5 on B. Dalton's mass-market bestseller list.[137] By 1983, 1.7 million copies of Mastering Pac-Man had been printed.[138] In comedy, there is a popular Pac-Man joke on the controversy regarding the influence of video games on children, stating "If Pacman had affected us as kids we'd be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music."[140]

The game has inspired various real-life recreations, involving either real people or robots. One event called Pac-Manhattan set a Guinness World Record for "Largest Pac-Man Game" in 2004.[141][143] The business term "Pac-Man defense" in mergers and acquisitions refers to a hostile takeover target that attempts to reverse the situation and take over its would-be acquirer instead, a reference to Pac-Man's power pellets.[144] The game's popularity has led to "Pac-Man" being adopted as a nickname, most notably by boxer Manny Pacquiao,[145] as well as the American football player Adam Jones.

Pac-Man has found its position beyond the game world. Under a National Science Foundation funded project, the computer science department at UC Berkeley has developed a custom version of Pac-Man in Python to teach students basic Artificial Intelligence concepts, such as informed state-space search, probabilistic inference, and reinforcement learning.[147] Students are asked to complete a series of problems from simple to difficult, to eventually design a Pac-Man agent that automatically eats all the Pac-dots on the map. The concepts learned during these problems underlie many real-world AI application areas, such as natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics.

In January 2013, Pac-Man and Blinky appeared on the top Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Great Dome as part of a traditional hack or prank used to demonstrate the technical aptitude and cleverness of the students. According to the MIT alumni blog, Slice of MIT, the Pac-Man, Blinky battle was intended to serve as a metaphor for the semester. "Pac-Man represents the unquenchable search for knowledge, while Blinky represents the unforeseen distractions that may occur.”[148][149]

On June 10, 2014, Pac-Man was confirmed to appear as a playable character in the game Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. The 3DS version also has a stage based on the original arcade game, called Pac-Maze.[150] A Pac-Man amiibo figurine was also released by Nintendo on May 29, 2015.

On February 1, 2015, as part of the Super Bowl, a Bud Light commercial featured a real-life Pac-Man board with one of the players as Pac-Man and using computer graphic ghosts.

The Pac-Man character appears in the film Pixels (2015), with Denis Akiyama playing series creator Toru Iwatani.[151][152] Iwatani himself makes a cameo at the beginning of the film as an arcade technician.

On August 3, 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump released a video on his Facebook page depicting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the video game with ghosts representing FBI agents, referring to Clinton's email investigation.[153]

On August 21, 2016, in the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, during a video which showcased Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, a small segment shows Pac-Man and the ghosts racing against each other eating pac-dots on a running track.[154]