Monday, June 26, 2006

Pac-Man For President

Yesterday I was schooling Joey in some "real" classic video games (I'm talking before Nintendo) and we were playing the greatest video game of all time, Pac-Man. Hearing the sounds from Pac-Man (or Space Invaders) for the first time in a while, I'm always instantly taken back to Ocean City, MD - Summers of `81 & `82 and every single arcade in the town with it's rows of Pac-Man and Space Invaders machines. I remember the arcade at the Frontiertown Campground had nothing but Pac-Man and Spaced Invaders and you had to wait for a machine to free up. (Back in those days, your quarter placed on the cabinet of the game secured your right as the next player!) Anywho...I got to thinking about how Pac-Man was not just a video game but a way of life for so many of us back then. So, I dug up some Pac-Man memories and thought I'd share them with you.

This watch was awesome because you could actually play Pac-Man on the watch. You were able to take the awesomeness of Pac-Man with you everywhere you went. This is before Game Boy and all that nonsense. Pac-Man! On your watch! I was happy to toss aside my R2-D2 digital watch for this little gem. Sadly, I also remember this baby being my only company at a party in the 7th grade while everyone else was slow dancing in the dark.

One of my all-time favorites from the great legacy of Saturday Morning Cartoons! The Pac-Man Show was the bomb! Pac-Man was married to Mrs. Pac-Man (or Pepper as he called her) and they had Pac-Baby and their dog and cat, Chomp-Chomp and Sour Puss. They lived in a little house in Pac-Land where all the other Pac People lived. Pac-Man had a job at the local Power Pellet Farm where he had to protect the crops from the stupid...but evil Ghost Monsters! Man...that was a great show. You can still catch the Christmas episode on Cartoon Network every December.

Again, before Game Boy, Tomy Pocket Games were awesome! They were little hand held games that did not involve electronics of any kind, just good old fashioned moving parts! We had a horse racing one, and my brother had some sort of motorcycle one too. I got this Pac-Man one for my birthday one year. The little marbles bounce down the maze a'la Plinko while you maneuver Pac-Man and catch all the balls. Great fun! This could keep you busy on a car trip for hours!

When you're 8 years old in the early 80's...it simply just doesn't get any better than this. I'm quite sure the entire time this Pac-Man brand pasta was on the shelves at the grocery store, we had a cupboard full of every variety imaginable. Cheese, Meatballs, Chicken...we had `em all! This is good eatin' right here, my friend!

There were only a few trading cards that became popular in my neighborhood. Gremlins, Garbage Pail Kids, Dukes of Hazzard, and Pac-Man. (Oddly enough actual baseball cards were never really that popular with us!?!) The Pac-Man cards were also stickers, so you could actually put your doubles to good use. There was a Pac-Man sticker on pretty much every toy and plaything in our neighborhood. Each pack also came with a scratch-off game where you had to rub off the dots in a Pac-Man maze and you could win prizes. Nobody I knew ever came close to winning, but we hoarded those things like pick axes during the gold rush!

Since everyone didn't have a video game system in their house at this point, for some kids the only way to play Pac-Man at home was with this board game. This was another birthday gift I received and LOVED! Even though the game took well over an hour to set up the thousands of marbles involved in playing, it was alot of fun the one or two times we played. A big plastic Pac-Man went around the board gobbling up the dots/marbles. The player with the most marbles won! It was essentially a more complicated version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Nowadays, fads come and go quicker than you can organize your Pog collection. But for a few years in the early 1980's, Pac-Man ruled this country...and our hearts!

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