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11 Fun Facts About Ms. Pac-Man

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In 1980, a hungry yellow disc swallowed the hearts of gamers worldwide and set off years’ worth of Pac-mania. In 1982, another circle rolled onto the scene and upped the ghost-chasing ante—and, as Ms. Pac-Man herself sang out during 1982 TV commercials, she was “more than Pac-Man with a bow.”

1. She was born as a knock-off.

In the early days of arcade games, programmers created new games by modifying existing cabinets. MIT students Kevin Curran and Doug Macrae of the General Computer Corporation (GCC) first developed Ms. Pac-Man as an enhancement kit for Pac-Man arcade games. Only she wasn’t Ms. Pac-Man at first. First there was Crazy Otto, who had legs and chased monsters—not ghosts—around Pac-Man’s levels.

While the pair was working on developing Crazy Otto, Atari hit them with a lawsuit over Super Missile Attack, an earlier game modification that upgraded existing Atari Missile Command arcade units for faster, more difficult gameplay. Instead of risking similar litigation from Namco, the Japanese company behind Pac-Man, GCC sold Crazy Otto to Midway Manufacturing Co., Pac-Man’s North-American distributor, which was eager for a sequel to capitalize on the original game’s popularity.

2. She was part of a push to get women into gaming.

"Until Pac-Man came around, we couldn't get women to play the games," James Jarocki, advertising promotion manager for Ball Midway, said in 1982. "Admittedly, Ms. Pac-Man was a spin-off, but we also wanted to say thank-you to women who had started playing Pac-Man."

Contemporary critics suggested that the perceived female appeal of games like Pac-Man and Kangaroo—ones that arcade owners saw women and girls playing—had to do with their relative non-violence, among other things: "From a pop psychological point of view, I have heard it said that Pac-Man imitates courtship and mating," Joyce Worley, senior editor for Electronic Games, said in 1982. “One way of looking at Ms. Pac-Man is imagining she is being pursued by the wild males until she turns around and captures them. She tames their wildness as it were."

However, other critics at that time suggested that the wildly popular game’s central premise—eating—accounted for its universal draw.


In 2009, the magazine Game Informer compiled a “Top 200 Games of All Time” list. Ms. Pac-Man got the #10 spot, and earned the praise that it "trumped [the original] in nearly every way." (Pac-Man did receive, at least, a respectable ranking of #52).


Like her husband, the “pac” in Ms. Pac-Man’s name comes from the original title Puck-Man and the term “paku paku,” a Japanese slang term or gesture for eating or gobbling. However, in the 72 hours before production on the sequel began, Midway marketers changed her planned name of Pac-Woman—which would have kept the Pac-Man brand intact—to Miss Pac-Man.

The programmers then realized that name might not work either. As Macrae later recalled, “[S]omeone pointed out to us that in the third animation (the cartoons between levels of the games) Pac-Man and the female Pac-Man get together and have a baby. We would have had all kinds of people talking about the fact that they had a baby out of wedlock, which would have been very bad.”

The team briefly changed the name to Mrs. Pac-Man before selling on Ms. Pac-Man, which they felt sounded better


In Pac-Man, the ghosts’ American names are Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (descended from the original Japanese characters Fickle, Chaser, Ambusher, and Stupid). For Ms. Pac-Man, Midway changed the name of the orange, slowest ghost from Clyde to Sue, but left it at the rear of the pack.


Ms. Pac-Man was more than just a critical darling. While Pac-Man is ranked as the highest-grossing American arcade game of all time, Ms. Pac-Man is a major title in her own right. The game moved 125,000 arcade cabinets, and by 1987 it had pulled in over $1.2 billion in quarters. By one estimate, it’s the fourth highest selling arcade game of all time.

7. Not everyone loved the Pac-Man craze.

The Pac-Couple have provided such addictively high-quality entertainment that almost since their release they’ve been accused of leading to truancy. A December 1982 Associated Press story shared the woes of two mothers who learned their kids were skipping school to dump quarters into the machines. One headline: “Mothers say school can’t compete with the lure of Pac-Man games.”

8. She inspired weddings.

Maybe it’s the romantic animations between levels. The 1982 arcade wedding of a Des Moines, Iowa couple featured a Pac-Man cake and a honeymoon suite equipped with a cabinet. The news story reported that the couple “said Pac-Man, the popular video game, and its more recent counterpart, Ms. Pac-Man, mean so much to them they decided to exchange vows in the presence of the machines.”

If Pinterest is any indication, this is one tradition that’s alive and well over three decades later.


Produced by Hanna-Barbera, Pac-Man ran on ABC for two seasons starting in 1982, and featured Pac-Man, his wife (renamed and restyled as Pepper Pac-Man), Pac-Baby, the ghosts, and a host of new characters. In the short-lived show, the characters lived on and worked to gather Power Pellets in the largely spherical realm of Pac-Land.


In August of 2005, Queens, New York resident Abdner Ashman took the high-score title from Chris Ayra with 921,360 points. The difference between the two scores—just 1050 points—could almost be accounted for with the eating of one additional apple (worth 1000 points each) over the course of 130 stages. In 2006 Ashman beat his own score, amassing an amazing 933,580 points


Most arcade-style Ms. Pac-Man units have 133, 134, or 141 levels. Like any arcade game, it can get glitchy and unable to handle the speed and number of internal processes on its most intense levels. However, legend has is that, on the right machine, a player can climb past Ashman’s score of 933,580, watch their score of 1,000,000 tick back over to 0, and just keep gobbling.

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Something Something Soup Something
This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
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Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

Pop Culture
15 Forgotten Video Game Mascots From the 1990s

With the growing popularity of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog on home video game consoles in the 1990s, it seemed that almost every video game company was set on creating a lovable mascot to give their brand a unique identity. Sometimes these mascots were memorable and iconic, like Capcom’s Mega Man or Namco’s Pac-Man, but other times they failed to leave any lasting impression. Here are 15 forgotten video game mascots from the '90s.


In 1993, Japanese video game developers Irem Software Engineering created Rocky Rodent, an anthropomorphized rodent with a cool attitude and hair to match. This would-be mascot was tasked with rescuing the daughter of a restaurant owner named Pie Face Balboa from the mob. As a reward, Rocky Rodent would get an all-you-can-eat buffet. His bizarre weapon of choice was a can of hairspray, which he used to both defeat bad guys and style his hair.


Tengen created a rival for Sonic when it released Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt for the Sega Genesis in 1993. The game featured the cool and badass Awesome Possum, who would collect empty bottles and cans instead of coins or gold rings, in an effort to clean up the forest. It was sold as an educational game for children with an environmental activist theme, but it never caught on with gamers, despite positive reviews. Maybe kids back in the '90s didn’t want to learn about recycling and Earth science while they were playing video games.


Originally developed for the SNES, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos was created as a 3D platformer starring Yoshi from Super Mario World. However, when Nintendo rejected the game, the developers at Argonaut Games changed Yoshi from a lovable dinosaur into a lovable crocodile named Croc, who tried to rescue furry creatures from the evil Baron Dante. Argonaut then pitched the mascot to Sony, who loved the gameplay and released it for the original PlayStation in 1997.


Released in 1995, Ristar was developed late in the Genesis's life cycle by Sonic Team, the same production company that created Sonic the Hedgehog. The mascot was a cute star who had the ability to stretch his arms in any direction to climb, swing, and grab enemies, as he explored a number of planets.

Since the character and game came out just before Sega released the 32-bit Saturn, the mascot never grew in popularity. Ristar managed to gather a cult following for its mechanics and strong gameplay, and the character has since made cameos in other Sega games, such as Shenmue, Segagaga, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

5. GEX

In 1994, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console was released with the promise of high-end 32-bit gaming. To compete with established consoles like the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn, 3DO needed a cool mascot like Mario and Sonic to bring more attention to their video game system. Enter: Gex.

Released in 1995, Gex featured a wisecracking gecko (four years before the first appearance of the now iconic Geico Gecko) with a cool attitude and a penchant for watching TV. The game followed Gex as he tried to find remote controls hidden in TV show-themed levels to get home, but the evil Emperor Rez stood in his way.

While Gex received critical and fan acclaim, it wasn’t strong enough to bring the 3DO into the mainstream against tough competition. The 3DO was eventually discontinued two years after it was released, and Gex was then ported to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.


While he first appeared in Rareware’s Diddy Kong Racing (along with Banjo-Kazooie) for N64 in 1997, Conker the Squirrel received his own spinoff game for the Game Boy Color in 1999. Conker's Pocket Tales was a lighthearted game that followed the adventures of Conker, a cute squirrel who has to rescue his girlfriend Berri from the Evil Acorn. In 2001, Rare released Conker's Bad Fur Day, where the character went from a cute and cuddly mascot into a hard-drinking and foul-mouthed squirrel who would constantly break the fourth wall during gameplay. The game was remade in 2005 for the Xbox, under the name Conker: Live & Reloaded and later included in the Rare Replay compilation game for Xbox One in 2015.


While the NES and the Sega Genesis were the two systems at the center of the console wars of the late '80s and early '90s, NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 was a modest console from Japan, where it was known as the PC Engine before it was rebranded in America. The console’s mascot was Bonk, a prehistoric caveman kid whose main attack was a fierce headbutt. The mascot and game series—the first game was Bonk's Adventure released in 1990—were quite popular in Japan and Europe, but didn’t gain the same success in the U.S. due to the popularity of Mario and Sonic.


Released as a sequel to the 1986 Japanese arcade game KiKi KaiKai (it was called Knight Boy in limited release in the U.S.), Pocky & Rocky was developed by Natsume for the SNES in 1992. The sequel followed a young Shinto shrine princess named Pocky and her sidekick, Rocky the Tanuki, as they try to save small and cute creatures called Nopino Goblins in a top-down co-op adventure game. Pocky & Rocky received good reviews from critics and even got a sequel for the SNES in 1994, but the characters were never elevated to mascot status.


Rare’s Tim and Chris Stamper created Battletoads, a co-op beat-'em-up game for the NES that featured three musclebound toads named Rash, Zitz, and Pimple as a rival to the widely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games of the early '90s. Battletoads was mostly known for its fun stage design and heart-stopping speed and difficulty level. The characters even crossed over with brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon in an ultimate beat-'em-up action game.

While the games spawned a short-lived cartoon series and comic strip, Battletoads could never escape comparisons to TMNT. The warrior toads have not been featured in their own video game since 1994.


In 1993, a cocky bobcat with a cool attitude named Bubsy was positioned to usurp the video game mascot throne from Mario and Sonic. However, Bubsy's games didn't live up to the hype, despite being available for the Sega Genesis, SNES, PlayStation, and Atari Jaguar, where he eventually found a home as one of the console's short-lived mascots.

Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind followed the titular bobcat trying to get back the world’s largest yarn ball from a fabric-stealing race of aliens known as the “Woolies.” A sequel was released in 1994 with an exclusive follow-up for the Atari Jaguar called Bubsy in: Fractured Furry Tales released later in 1994. The game series lasted for one more game with the release of Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet for the Sony PlayStation in 1996.


In 1998, Interactive Studios and Hasbro Interactive released a platformer called Glover, which followed the adventures of a sentient four-fingered right-handed glove, for the N64. The object of the game was to get a ball to the end of each level, while trying to solve puzzles, dodge enemies, and find lost crystals to restore the Crystal Kingdom. Glover’s life was tied to the ball, so if it fell off the platform, the glove would also die.

The gameplay was a little ahead of its time and would probably do better with motion-control consoles like the Nintendo Wii or touchscreen Android or iOS devices. As a result, Glover had poor sales and low critic ratings, which led to the cancellation of its sequel.


Before the advent of Sonic, Sega had a different mascot named Alex Kidd, a small boy with big ears and monkey-like features who lived on the planet Aries, which was also known as Miracle World. The games started out in the arcades, but made their way to the Sega Master System as a mix of platforming and puzzle solving games.

Alex Kidd was featured in six games throughout the late '80s and early '90s, but never rivaled Nintendo’s Mario in popularity. Sega needed a different mascot to represent the company, so video game designers Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara created Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.

Sega stopped making Alex Kidd games and focused all of its resources into making Sonic more popular than Mario. However, Alex Kidd still made cameos in various Sega games, such as Altered Beast, Sega Superstars Tennis, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.


Created by French video game developers Titus Interactive, Titus The Fox: To Marrakech and Back (Lagaf': Les Aventures de Moktar) was released for the Amiga and Atari ST personal computers in 1991. The video game followed the titular fox on a quest to rescue his girlfriend Suzy. He must complete 15 levels through the Sahara Desert while dodging dogs, construction workers, and giant bees to save her. It was also eventually ported to the Game Boy and Game Boy Color later in the '90s.

Unfortunately, Titus The Fox received poor ratings from critics and fans alike, and Titus Interactive ultimately filed for bankruptcy and folded in 2005.


After the pair first appeared in Diddy Kong Racing for the N64 in 1997, Rare released a spin-off game starring a bear named Banjo and a bird named Kazooie in 1998. The puzzle-solving 3D platformer followed Banjo-Kazooie as they tried to stop the evil Gruntilda from stealing Banjo's sister's beauty. The game was praised for its non-linear level design, as well as its immersive graphics and deep sound design. A sequel called Banjo-Tooie was released for the N64 in 2000.

Fun Fact: The video game was originally developed as a role-playing game called Dream: Land of Giants for the SNES before it was re-developed.


In 1994, Iguana Entertainment and Sunsoft released Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel as a spin-off game of Aero the Acro-Bat, where he appeared as a sidekick. Zero’s mission was to stop an evil lumberjack named Jacques Le Sheets after he kidnapped Zero’s girlfriend (or should I say “squirrelfriend”) and started to tear down the forest to make counterfeit money.

While it received favorable reviews, Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel never caught on with gamers due to its sloppy controls, while the perception that the character was a blatant rip-off of Sonic the Hedgehog persisted.


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