Good day, everyone! New guy Thor here, but I guess “new” is a relative term considering I’m 44 years old. As you may have guessed, I’ve been playing games for a VERY long time: I recall playing one of those mid-seventies 3-game Pong home machines during the mid-seventies, but I consider my official initiation into the Quarter Club as the first time I played what became one of my all-time favorite video games – the yellow dot gobbling superstar, Pac-Man.
I can clearly recall the first time I ever played Pac-Man: my family and I were on vacation in West Palm Beach, Florida back in 1980. I have family there so we made this visit quite frequently (those trips to Florida would be quite important to my burgeoning video game mania). We had gone out for dinner with my aunt and uncle to a pizza place and it was at this restaurant that I received my first introduction to what would soon become an international phenomenon, the ubiquitous Pac-Man. It was the cocktail table version, surrounded by those who either wanted to play or were just rubbernecking to see what all the excitement was about.
Admittedly, I wasn’t paying much attention as far as how to play the game properly, so when it was my turn to play I didn’t do very well. It also didn’t help that I didn’t figure out that I was controlling Pac-Man, not one of the monsters, until I was on my last life. Unfortunately, all I had was the one quarter so once I lost that last life I had to give up my seat and go back to my booth and wait for my pizza to arrive. It didn’t matter that I was a lousy player my first time out, from that point I was hooked and hooked deep. Shortly after that, Pac-man hit the big time and was literally EVERYWHERE. Shirts, notebooks, towels, strategy books, sticker packs with inedible gum sticks and scratch-off games, that wonderful, wonderful song by Buckner and Garcia – Pac-Man was everywhere and I was determined to get it all. Pretty much did, too, but Pac-Man also kicked off another important aspect of my life: art.
Today, I’m a staff artist for Nintendo Force Magazine and RETRO Magazine, as well as being a freelance artist for many a video game-flavored musician and book author, but back then, I was trying my best to imitate all those great t-shirt and notebook designs and create my own mazes. Pac-Man (and video games in general) captured my imagination in a way that nothing else did until I discovered Marvel Comics 3 years later.
I still draw Pac-Man today – Lord knows I’m a better Pac-Artist than a Pac-Player. Small confession: I’ve never been a good Pac-Man player. I can totally rock Super Pac-Man and I’m not half-bad at Ms. Pac-Man, but the original was just something I was never able to conquer. This never bothered me as I was too enthralled by everything about the game to care much about how well I played.
Today, Pac-Man is still seen all over the place, thanks to his inclusion in Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers, a recent cartoon series and a series of high-quality sequels and mobile games. I still love the little yellow overeater and play his games frequently. The only game series that has affected me equally since that time (or more, as it turns out) is another superstar from the early eighties – Donkey Kong. But, as they say, is a story for another time…
Thor Thorvaldson, Jr.