Pac-Man – Ready Player One Video Game Replay

One of the definitive 1980s arcade games – maybe the Definitive Arcade Game (after all, did Asteroids or Space Invaders have their own theme songs?) – Pac-Man is a classic. The game was created by Toru Iwatani, and released on May 22, 1980 by Namco.

The rest, of course, is history.


I continued farther into the dark electronic cave and walked up to a Pac-Man machine at the very back of the room, wedged between a Galaga and a Dig Dug.

Game Play

A full-screen view of a Pac-man game. Art from the original arcade console - featuring Pac-Man, a ghost, and the game rules - appears in the side panels. In the center is the classic blue maze with yellow dots, the yellow Pac-Man figure, and four ghosts.
A classic game of Pac-Man, as featured in in the Pac-Man Museum collection on the Nintendo Switch.

The setup is basic (and brilliant). You control Pac-Man, a yellow circle missing a triangular slice. Your mission is to consume all the dots in a maze before being killed by one of the four colorful ghosts that patrol it. You can periodically turn the tides on the ghosts by eating power pellets that turn the ghosts blue and let you eat them. The effect is temporary though; they quickly revert back (or re-appear in ghost jail, which they quickly escape from to continue their relentless hunt).

You play for as long as you can, racking up the highest score you can, before you die.

And you will die.

This is the Way of Pac.

So say we all.


I didn’t play a lot of Pac-Man in the arcade. When Ms. Pac-Man came along, she displaced the older game (which makes sense; Ms. Pac-Man’s a lot more fun, what with its bouncing fruit and basic narrative of video game love). What I did play a ton of was Pac-Man for the Atari 2600. This is even though it wasn’t a very good game; the graphics (even by Atari standards) were poor. Back in the day though, we loved it especially when we could get it to glitch and we’d teleport through parts of the maze.

Good times.

As for the arcade version, well … it’s ok. It’s a classic and it’s still fun to play, but Ms. Pac-man remains the superior game. We have a Ms. Pac-Man arcade machine at work, and I play it almost every day as one of my co-workers and I compete for the top spot. Pac-Man doesn’t get much love. Ok, he doesn’t get any love, save for those three scenes where he meets up with his future wife.

In Ready Player One though, Pac-man is front and center. The scene described above leads to the discovery of a very special quarter (those of a certain age can remember putting down a quarter on an arcade machine to reserve “next up”) that proves pivotal later in the story.

For me though? Yeah, it’s all about Ms. Pac-man.

For the replay, I picked up Pac-Man Museum for the Switch, which includes the original game plus a bunch of sequels. It plays well enough, though I found the controls less responsive than I’m used to with the stand-up emulator at the day job. After playing so much Ms. Pac-Man at work, the older patterns of the Pac-Man ghosts messed with my head. While I could learn the older patterns, I don’t want to mess with my intutive understanding of the Ms. Pac-Man patterns.

Afterall, I still have a high score to claim at work…

The Ready Player One Replay is an ongoing exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Love it or hate it, there’s value in revisiting our geeky roots.

High Scores

  • My High Score: 19,850


Where to Play


Featured Image Meta

A close-up screenshot of the Pac-Man game, taken the Pac-Man Museum version of the game on Nintendo Switch. Credit: Ken Newquist

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