11 Fun Facts About Ms. Pac-Man

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.

3. ... BUT ENDED UP WINNING OVER EVERYONE.

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).

4. HER NAME (AND MARITAL STATUS) CHANGED THREE TIMES BEFORE LAUNCH.

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

5. THE SLOWEST GHOST GOT AN IDENTITY MAKEOVER, TOO.

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.

6. She is ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR ARCADE GAMES EVER.

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.

9. SHE STARRED IN THE FIRST CARTOON BASED ON A VIDEO GAME.

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.

10. THE WORLD RECORD SCORE IS WORTH ABOUT 93,000 PAC-DOTS EATEN, OR 465 PEARS.

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

11. IN THEORY, YOU CAN PLAY MS. PAC-MAN FOREVER.

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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A New Stranger Things Video Game Is in the Works
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The world of Stranger Things is ready to get the proper video game treatment. TechRadar exclusively revealed that the hit sci-fi series from Netflix will be coming to consoles, courtesy of Telltale Games. Though details are scarce, this seems to be the beginning of a working relationship between the two companies as it was also announced that Telltale’s popular Minecraft: Story Mode game will soon be brought to Netflix as a “5-episode interactive narrative series,” according to the site.

Though Minecraft will be experienced through Netflix itself, the Stranger Things game will be a traditional console/computer release. If you’re unfamiliar with Telltale, its brand of games tends to favor a branching narrative experience that emphasizes player choice over button mashing. These point-and-click adventures usually don’t have a standard release schedule, either; instead, they’re split up into parts and distributed episodically for download. The games are usually released on consoles, including the Nintendo Switch, as well as PC, Android, and iOS.

While the highlight of Telltale’s work is widely considered to be its Walking Dead adaptations, they’ve also found success with other blockbuster franchises like Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy, and its latest effort, Batman: The Enemy Within. There’s no word on whether or not the Stranger Things cast will be involved in the game, or if it will follow the established Telltale formula. In a statement to TechRadar, a spokesperson for the developer said, “we're excited to reveal details on these projects later in the year.”

This might not be the end of Netflix’s foray into the video game world. While the company has no plans to enter the market itself, TechRadar did find a job listing at Netflix for a Manager of Interactive Licensing who will "use games as a marketing tactic to capture demand and delight our member community (ex: Stranger Things: The Game)." May your dreams of a Narcos economic simulator game be realized.

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10 Surprising Facts About Fallout
Mike Windle/Getty Images for Bethesda
Mike Windle/Getty Images for Bethesda

On the surface, the pervasive violence, nightmarish difficulty, and dark humor of the Fallout series should have relegated it to niche status. But it’s that exact combination (along with the ability to have your very own handheld nuke launcher) that’s helped it become one of the most acclaimed series in the gaming industry over the last 20 years.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where mutants, cannibals, and raiders descend upon you in waves, the Fallout franchise has come to define the modern role-playing game, from its first iteration at Interplay Entertainment to its modern installments at Bethesda Softworks. As gamers anticipate the next entry in the series, Fallout 76, take a look at 10 facts about this iconic series.

1. IT’S A SPIRITUAL SUCCESSOR TO WASTELAND.

Before Interplay’s original Fallout came out, the studio already visited a war-torn nightmare of a world in 1988’s Wasteland. In this RPG on the PC, players took on the role of the Desert Rangers, a team tasked with roaming what’s left of the Southwest United States while battling any warring factions they came across.

When Interplay couldn’t pry the rights to Wasteland away from distributor Electronic Arts for a sequel, director Timothy Cain and his team crafted a brand-new IP that focused on mainly the same nuclear-scorched principles. Though a number of titles were batted around—including Vault 13—the team eventually settled on Fallout, which was a name suggested by Interplay head Brian Fargo.

2. THE POST-APOCALYPSE WASN’T THE FIRST SETTING DISCUSSED.

Fallout is defined by its setting—the war-torn streets, smoldering husks of civilization, and retro-futuristic vibe all helped make this franchise stand out from its competition. But this world wasn’t Cain’s first idea. According to a feature article on Polygon, Cain originally toyed with the type of traditional fantasy RPG that had defined the genre during the 1990s. The next idea was to let you play as time-traveling dinosaurs, which is obviously never a wrong choice. Eventually, though, the team settled on the post-apocalyptic theme that has stayed with the franchise ever since.

3. THEN THE WHOLE THING WAS ALMOST DERAILED BY D&D.

Though the team finally nailed down the world, it didn’t mean Fallout was a sure thing. At one point during production, Interplay got the rights to release games based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, and the company wanted to scrap Fallout and move the team onto the more traditional RPG title.

In an interview with Polygon, Cain said he actually had to beg the higher-ups to allow him to continue with his game. The same thing would happen again when Interplay wanted Cain to reconfigure the game into a multi-player RPG to piggyback off the success of Diablo. Again, Cain’s vision prevailed.

4. THERE WAS ALMOST A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FALLOUT 3.

After the success of Fallout 2 in 1998, Black Isle Studios—working under Interplay—began prepping a third installment, codenamed Van Buren. Like the first two installments, this one would be an isometric RPG in the Wasteland where the player takes control of an escaped prisoner who winds up attempting to stop (or help) a rogue scientist’s plan to “purify” society via an attack from an orbital nuclear missile system.

The project was canceled, and soon Black Isle Studios would be axed and the Fallout property would land at Bethesda. However, a tech demo of the original Fallout 3 did land online a few years back.

5. THE GAMES ARE STACKED WITH SCI-FI EASTER EGGS.

The Wasteland is littered with more than just burned-out buildings and scattered remnants of humanity; it’s also home to Easter eggs and homages to nearly every major sci-fi property in existence.

In the original game, for instance, players can stumble upon a familiar blue callbox that disappears into thin air—a callback to the TARDIS from Doctor Who. There’s also the sight of a post-apocalyptic wanderer traveling the wasteland with his dog from Fallout 3 that is an unmistakable homage to the Mad Max series. And if you stumble upon a refrigerator in the desert in Fallout: New Vegas, look inside—you might find the skeletal remains of Indiana Jones as a nod to the infamous nuke scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

And that’s just the beginning. If you take your time to really explore the world of these games, you’ll find shout-outs to Planet of the Apes, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jaws, Star Wars, and countless others.

6. FALLOUT 3 HAD ISSUES IN AUSTRALIA AND INDIA.

When Bethesda took control of the series for 2008’s Fallout 3, the studio retained its high level of violence, profanity, and all-around sacrilege. So it was only inevitable when governments started to take notice.

In Australia, the game was faced with a ban due to the fact that the player could use, and get addicted to, morphine. Instead of losing this sizable market, Bethesda changed the name of the drug to the fictional “Med-X” after the Aussie government took issue with a player getting addicted to (and possibly even glorifying) a real drug. This change wasn’t just reflected in Australia but in every region, turning Med-X into part of Wasteland lore.

The controversy continued in India, where the game simply wasn’t released at all because of issues stemming from “cultural sensitivities.”

7. FALLOUT 4’S SCRIPT TOTALED 13,000 LINES OF DIALOGUE FOR THE MAIN ACTORS.

In previous games in the series, the main characters never spoke; they were voiceless protagonists in a world of fully-voiced supporting characters and villains. But in Fallout 4, Bethesda took away that ambiguity in favor of fully voiced heroes. They hired both a male and female voice actor for the job, depending on which character the player chose to create, and for its first foray into the voiced realm, the studio made their leads pretty talkative.

According to the game’s director, Todd Howard, each actor had about 13,000 lines of dialogue, which were recorded over the span of two years. That number goes up exponentially when you look at the game as a whole: One estimate put the total lines of dialogue for every character in the game combined at somewhere near 170,000.

8. THE SERIES BOASTS AN IMPRESSIVE CELEBRITY VOICE CAST.

Though the main characters are usually mute, the world of Fallout is populated by a roster of celebrities who have lent their voices to everything from super mutants to wannabe crime bosses. Most recognizable among them is Ron Perlman, who narrated the intros to Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Fallout Tactics, and Fallout: New Vegas. He’s become a fan favorite part of the story over the years with the opening lines, “War. War never changes.”

There’s also Liam Neeson as the main character’s father in 3, which also featured Malcolm McDowell as the president. And then there’s New Vegas, with Matthew Perry (an ardent franchise fan) as Benny and Wayne Newton as a radio DJ. Throughout all the games, you’ll also hear from the likes of Danny Trejo, Brad Garrett, Dave Foley, and Lynda Carter, who also wrote and provides the vocals for original songs in Fallout 4.

9. FALLOUT 4 EARNED $750 MILLION ON LAUNCH DAY.

The franchise was more of a critical success than a commercial one during the Interplay years, but once it made its way to Bethesda, it managed to hit sales marks that were previously unseen for the series. Fallout 3’s launch week saw 4.7 million units shipped, for a total of $300 million worldwide. Fallout: New Vegas saw similar success, bringing in over $300 million in its first month.

Well, Fallout 4 basically doubled those numbers within its first 24 hours on the market. The $750 million that the game made on its November 10, 2015 debut was a record at the time for the biggest entertainment launch of the year and one of the biggest single-day video game feats of all time.

10. FANS ARE CREATING NEW FALLOUT GAMES.

Bethesda has always been a haven for modders, those tech-savvy super fans that dive into a game’s source code to create something wholly original within the original title. A lot of these mods fix graphical issues and other bugs, while others add new characters or a dose of absurdity to the game, like the mods that turned all deathclaw enemies into Thomas the Tank Engine or Macho Man Randy Savage.

Some of these mods go well above and beyond, turning into full games in their own right, set in the Fallout universe and created by fans. There’s Fallout: Cascadia, which is a mod project that puts the series in Seattle; Fallout 4: New Vegas, which recreated New Vegas with 4’s upgraded engine; and Fallout: New California, an ambitious New Vegas mod that features all-new characters and stories.

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