Pac-Man turns 30: Gen Xers Chasing Ghosts

Old Ms Pac Man Arcade Game
Old Ms Pac Man Arcade Game
Playing Pac Man

Pac-Man, the pellet devouring, woka-woka-sound making, fruit-consuming arcade superstar turns 30-years-old in May. Like the Gen Xers (born 1961-81) who made him an icon, he is too young to remember Woodstock, too old not to worry about the state of Social Security.

Gen X Takes Work Breaks To Play Pac-Man

According to a Sekita Ekrek, a New York-based entertainment PR consultant and Gen Xer, she takes at least one break during her work day to play Pac-Man on her computer. “It’s been going on for a few years now, since I rediscovered the game at a New York City bar. I can even play it on mute when I have to.”

Johna Burke, a senior Vice President for BurellesLuce, Scottsdale, Arizona, also blows off steam with midday Pac-Man breaks. She confesses sneaking out to a local pizza joint during lunch to play the arcade favorite. “I had the original portable Pac-Man and Frogger games,” she says. “My Christmas wish every year is a full-size Ms. Pac-Man for my house.”

Namesake Software: PACMAN – Public Adjuster Client MANagement
Mike McManigal, a Gen Xer born in 1965, liked Pac-Man so much, he named the software he created for his public adjusting company PACMAN – Public Adjuster Client MANagement. And, Mandy Minor, a Gen Xer born in 1975 who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, still holds fast to her 24k Pac-Man charm. “I’m saving it for my daughter,” she says.

Pac-Man, the Greyhound Bus Station and Divorced Parents

Jimmy Moore, the 38-year-old owner of Less is Moore, Moore or Less, LLC, remembers the first time he ever played the game. “It was in a Greyhound bus station in Mississippi,” he says. “My brother and I traveled back and forth between Florida and Tennessee to visit divorced parents, so we took this trip a lot… I loved it when they sped up the character and I’d kick my brother’s butt.

“I watched the Saturday morning cartoon show and I couldn’t stop singing Pac-Man fever.”

Jay R. Koebele, also 38, remembers playing Pac-Man religiously on the Atari. “I spent countless hours playing game after game, using all of my allowance money every week playing, and buying the books that gave insider tips, secret patterns to follow.”

And Bruce Gray, a Los Angeles sculptor, liked the game so much he created hanging kinetic art mobiles inspired by Pac-Man.

A Quarter for Solace

For some Gen Xers, Pac-Man provided familiarity in a world framed by the instability of divorce and latchkeys; Cold War and jobless parents. “Moving a lot as a kid, the arcade was one of the few moderately consistent things in the world,” says Joseph Picard, who today, has had a hand in making games here and there.

“Almost any town I lived in, the yellow dude and his contemporaries were hanging around somewhere… A storefront with blacked out windows and a colorful painted generic logo offered what I needed – familiarity.

“Inside, the sounds were always the same. The lights were low, always the same. The people were different, but also always the same. The pixels called to me, asking just a quarter for solace. An eaten pellet, a stabbed ninja, a blown up alien later, I could forget for a while that I’d just lost all my friends because of a moving truck.

“Sure, I’d get a letter now and then, but experience made me a realist. They were gone. The pixels were here. So was a pusher, but Nancy Reagan told me to turn down those magic pellets. Winners don’t do drugs, they play Donkey Kong until they can loop the score to zero.”

You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike

Pac-Man T-Shirt
Pac-Man T-Shirt

Other Gen Xers remember playing the game with their parents. “I was reminiscing on the phone with my dad about all the fun we used to have playing Pac-Man together,” says Meredith Turner who works for Farm Sanctuary in New York City. “He described the Pac Man high that you would get once you reached the third screen and the pace quickened.”

Late last year, Turner and her boyfriend discovered an old Ms. Pac Man arcade game in a bar. “I made a bee-line to it,” she says. “Not having played in a long time, I came close to beating the highest score on the machine in just two games. And that was just warming up.

“I guess having mad Pac Man skills is like riding a bike.”

Yes, and if a red, pink, cyan and orange ghost are chasing you, all the better.

Pac-Man Video Game Screenshot
Pac-Man Video Game Screenshot

According to John Yarborough, who does PR for Namco, the company that developed the arcade game, Pac-Man’s birthday is definitely on the company’s radar, though they aren’t disclosing any specific plans for the celebration. Currently, three Pac-Man iPhone games are available.


Old Ms Pac Man Arcade Game
Old Ms Pac Man Arcade Game

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  1. says

    There’s a Pac-Man in a local pizzeria near here, and I had Icepick Jr. standing on a chair, wildly moving the little yellow guy around. I’ll hold it over him (someday) that I kicked his butt at Pac-Man when he was 3. Of course, at that point, he’ll be kicking my old tail at some virtual reality mind iGame that has yet to be invented, but I digress.

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