Pac-Man Fever: A Nation’s Silent Killer

Ever since Pac-Man’s heyday in the 1980s, Namco has constantly attempted to keep the game and character relevant. Some of these attempts, such as Pac-Pix for the Nintendo DS were fun diversions. Though mostly these revivals felt like uninspired cash grabs — i.e. the Super Mario Bros. wannabe Pac-Man World. Hot on the heels of a cool-yet-perplexing Wendy’s Kid’s Meal promotion (are children in 2011 really interested in the character?), Namco is again attempting to revitalize the Pac brand by creating the World’s Biggest Pac-Man game on the Internet that will become so vast it seems destined for Skynet-style self awareness.You can see it in action above, and here’s the details via Gamepro:

Soap Creative, a web development house, created the game entirely in
HTML 5, with support from Namco and Microsoft (hence the site
encouraging the use of Internet Explorer 9 — don’t worry, any HTML 5
browser should see it just fine). The web site opens with a bird’s-eye
view of created mazes in an ever-expanding map that you can scroll and
browse. Most mazes seem to be standard designs, but many people are
using them to create works of art or send a message.

A series of leaderboards show worldwide statistics, such as the total
number of dots eaten so far, and which country has the highest score
(right now, it’s the U.S.! We’re number one!). And like so many other
web games, World’s Biggest Pac-Man can be linked to your Facebook
account to track your own personal stats.

Only time will tell if this is a cool idea or if the experiment will result in an 8-bit apocalypse. (Apacylapse?) The interesting thing here is how hard Namco continues to push Pac-Man.You would think that money would be the primary motive here, but this new version is free, so instead it seems like their ceaseless efforts to promote the dot muncher are at least somewhat, if not primarily, fueled by their desire to keep him in the public eye. That’s commendable to be sure, even with hidden profit considerations lurking in the background of their actions. Ultimately, Pac-Man can’t compete with contemporary games, and Namco almost certainly realizes that. So think of this new iteration as an endless quest across the Internet and into video game immortality.

Of course, I fully expect many of you don’t give a shit and would rather hear about Portal 2. If so, my apologies.