Category Archives: pac-man

Video game maker Namco founder Masaya Nakamura

Namco Founder Masaya Nakamura Passes Away

In my article about the Nintendo Entertainment System, I paint a picture of then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi as an iron-willed leader who’s uncompromising nature was famous in the video game industry.  Today it was announced on Namco’s Japanese-language website that one of the few people to go up against Yamauchi has passed way at the age of 91: Namco founder Masaya Nakamura.

Started in 1955, Nakamura Manufacturing Company of Tokyo was initially an installer and operator of amusement park rides atop a department store in Yokohama, Japan. Becoming Namco in 1972, they entered the video game industry by purchasing the Japanese subsidiary of Atari from that company’s founder, Nolan Bushnell, in 1974. They would go on to not only trailblaze in the industry by developing one of the first full-colour and sprite-based video games with Galaxian in 1979, Namco would help solidify the video game market in North America a couple of years later with a blockbuster hit by employee Toru Iwatani, featuring a little yellow circle with a wedge of a mouth named Pac-Man.

Pac-Man, an arcade video game by Namco

The game-changing ‘Pac-Man’

 

It would be during the heydays of the NES when Nakamura would face-off with the most powerful company in the industry. Nintendo’s powerhouse game console had a draconian third-party licensee program, forcing makers of NES games to fork over a 20 percent royalty on sales and give exclusivity to Nintendo’s game machine for two years, among other financial hardships. Although Namco had been one of the first licensees for the NES, Nakamura would chafe under these restrictions and call out Yamauchi in the press for his licensing system, stating that “Nintendo is monopolizing the market, which is not good for anyone.” Namco then allied itself more closely with Nintendo’s competition at the time, most notably with Sega and their Master System and Genesis machines. Due to Nakamura’s resistance, as well as accusations from the U.S. Justice Department over various monopolistic practices, Nintendo would eventually drop the exclusivity clause from their developer contracts.

Ad for Namco games, a video game maker

Namco nestles up to the competition, 1990.


Merging with Japanese toy and video game company Bandai in 2005, Bandai-Namco today remains one of the few early arcade game companies still producing games. They have the assured and fearless guidance of Masaya Nakamura to thank for it.

Eat Locally

Gobble Your Neighbourhood With PacMaps

Just ahead of April Fool’s Day, Google has struck again by allowing users to turn any small section of Google Maps into a Pac-Man game you can control with your computer arrow keys. Fire up a section from Maps, zoom in enough so there are a lot of streets that fill the view, and click the Pac-Man button at the bottom of the screen to Pac-ify your surroundings.  

A couple of tips: try to pick a map section without a lot of fiddly turns and angles. Getting Pac quickly through such chicanery can be murder. Also, since any roads heading off the sides of the section become like the tunnels in the original arcade game, be careful moving through them. You might not come out the other side where you expect.

Who said traffic in Toronto wasn’t any fun?

Google Maps

The king of Kong barrels into Pixels

Full ‘Pixels’ Trailer Hits YouTube

I had a visceral reaction watching this new trailer for Adam Sandler’s upcoming classic video game themed film Pixels, but it wasn’t in one direction or the other about the quality of the movie. It’s neat to see these vaunted video game characters come to life, but in the trailer they appear to be in service of slight sight gags and weak punchlines. It’s awesome to see Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani make a prominent appearance, but then he’s used in a joke that merely subverts your expectations, which is one of the lowest forms of humour for me. I’m hoping that some more insightful, telling observations about video game culture and game nostalgia were left out of the preview for brevity’s sake.

Ah well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see when Pixels hits theatres this summer. It will either be the best thing ever, or the worst thing ever. For now, here is the full, official Trailer:

Screen shot from Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, a home video game by Bandai Namco 2013

The Time For Ghosts

While the little ghosts and goblins are trick-or-treating tonight for halloween, Pac-Man himself is having more trouble with ghosts in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, released yesterday for PS3, Xbox, and Wii U. by Bandai Namco, with a 3DS version to come soon.

The game is based on the animated TV series of the same name, which premiered in June on the Disney XD channel. It is a platformer in the same vein as the earlier Pac-Man World games by Namco, where Pac roams freely around worlds haunted by his ghostly enemies. Ghostly Adventures  adds a myriad of power-ups to the formula, granting Pac some Mario-like abilities such as fire and ice throwing, but adds some new ones like turning into a long-tongued chameleon, or a giant stone ball that rolls around squashing enemies. The game also features a 4-player online component where the screen is split into quadrants, each housing a player controlling a ghost, on the hunt through the classic maze for Pac-Man.

What’s not scary is that a game from 1980 continues to have such relevance in 2013. To read the storied history of Pac-Man and his ghostly enemies, consult your local Dot Eaters article.

Valhalla, I am coooominggggg

Visiting Valhalla

Local to me here in Toronto is a great store called Valhalla Cards & Gifts.  Its main trade is a wonderfully eclectic collection of greeting and post cards, most of which owner Chadwick Gendron designs himself.  Accompanying the cards is a wealth of knick-knacks and paddy-whacks on the shelves; Pantone mugs, off-kilter children’s books (Go the F**k to Sleep, why don’t you?), board games, fridge magnets, note books, ect. ect..

Of course, the products that catch my attention are retro game themed.  Here’s a couple of snaps I took of some while visiting the store:

Image of Pac-Man plug-and-play video games

Pac-Man plug-and-play video games

These Pac-Man plug-and-play video games apparently sell really well.  Even though the joystick makes Pac look like he has an orange goiter on his face.

Image of Space Invaders candy

Space Invader candy

An arcade of Space Invader candy.  What’s funny is that, back in its heyday in Japan, storeowners actually did move out all of their stock and installed all-Invaders arcades to ride the game’s immense popularity.  Here, though, Snake Plisskin seems to be scaring the customers away.

Image of Space Invaders candy

Invaders side art

Even the side art on these little guys is great.  Note the Pac-Man greeting card behind the cabinets.

Taking a trip to Valhalla is always pretty cool, with one never failing to find something they didn’t expect.  The store is located at 791 Queen Street West in Toronto, with operating hours between 11am and 7pm on weekdays and 12pm to 6pm on the weekends.  They also have a web store at ValhallaCards.com, as well the Twitter handle @ValhallaCards.

If you want to find out more about the history of the video games featured in these pics, consult your local Dot Eaters articles here:

The History of Pac-Man

The History of Space Invaders

 

 

Title screen for Super Mario Bros., a video game for the Famicom by Nintendo 1985

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – Super Mario Bros.

Here is the last of the TDE articles detailing various aspects of the Famicom, as well as the NES, the North American version of the console released in 1985.  These posts celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, and lead up to the full history of the Famicom, to be posted tomorrow. The post today also falls on the 30th anniversary of Mario Bros., so two koopa’s with one fireball, so to speak.  While Famicom project lead Masayuki Uemura and his team at R&D2 labs at Nintendo do great work putting together the hardware of the famed video game console, it’s the games for the system that give it longevity.  And there’s few games that boost Famicom and NES sales as much as Super Mario Bros..

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As much fun as losing three lives in a row

A Video Game Movie Review: Joysticks (1983)

The following is a movie review of mine from Ten Point Review. The idea of the site is to rate a movie according to four criteria, and then add and subtract points from that sub-total depending on how you react to various other aspects of the film, thusly coming up with a score of between 0 – 10.

Enjoy.

You might be thinking, “Why the hell review this chunk of cinematic excrement?”. If so, I see you’ve already watched Joysticks. Also, good question. I asked myself this very thing about 1000 times while subjecting myself to the movie.

As a video game historian, you’d think Joysticks would be right up my alley. I squee with delight at quick glimpses of classic arcade games in movies like Tron and WarGames. I even jones on the scene in the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead where they’re in the arcade playing all those classic 70′s games like Starship.  And I have to say, Joysticks does not skimp on the video games.  Heck, even the opening credits are interspersed with plenty of 80′s video game footage.

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Celebrating 15 years online

The Dot Eaters 15th Anniversary Re-Launch Party

Tomorrow, May 16 we will be holding a shindig to celebrate our 15th anniversary online, as well as the launch of our revamped site, which came online May 1.  The details are as follows:

The venue will be Saviari Tea & Cocktail Lounge, located at 926 King St. West.  It’s at the intersection of King W. and Strachan, the next major intersection West of Bathurst St., in Toronto, Ontario.


View Larger Map

The event will run from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.  There will be classic video game stations set up to play, including Mattel’s Intellivision and the Coleco ColecoVision. We will also be running a game tournament, playing Atari’s infamous 2600 version of Pac-Man.  Here’s how the prizes will break down:

1st Prize: a $50 dollar EB Games gift card

2nd Prize: a pair of tickets to the Game On exhibit currently running at the Ontario Science Centre.  This is an amazing exhibit of the history of video games, from PONG right up to modern systems and games.

3rd Prize: a $20 dollar gift card for A & C Games, a video game store specializing in retro games and systems.

In addition, each winner will receive a retro video game T-Shirt from Chop Shop Goods.  As well, there are 50 discounted tickets to the Ontario Science Centre for everyone, first come first served.

The event is free to attend, and there is a $5 registration fee to enter the Pac-Man competition.  There is a cash bar, and appetizers will be served.  To RSVP for the event, please shoot an email to contact@thedoteaters.com or use the contact form on this site on the Contact Us page.

See you there!