Pac-Man Perfect: 1st Perfect game of Pac-Man played on today’s date, 1999
On today’s date, July 3, in 1999, the first perfect score was achieved on the arcade game Pac-Man. This feat was accomplished by the very controversial figure, Billy Mitchell, at the Funspot Family Fun Center in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire. Mitchell was competing with a partner in a US vs Canada video game competition over the Fourth of July weekend. It took him over six hours to complete his “perfect game”.
What, you may ask, goes into getting a “perfect score” on Pac-Man? To reach the maximum score of 3,333,360 points, one must navigate 255 mazes, or “boards”, eating all dots, power pellets and point giving fruit. You must also devour all four ghosts every time you eat a power pellet. After successfully navigating the first 255 boards you will reach the final 256th board, or what is known as the “kill screen” (see pic below). On the 256th maze, there is a bug in Pac-Man’s internal code that affects how the screen is drawn. Half the screen is perfectly clear while the other half is a mess of random characters and symbols. The interrupted drawing of the maze renders this final maze nearly unplayable. You finish your game by acquiring as many points as possible on this “kill screen” before you eventually die.
Needless to say the Pac-Man “perfect game” is not an easy feat to achieve. After the first 21 boards or so, the maze pretty much stays the same, however the ghosts get faster and they don’t turn blue when you eat a power pellet. Much like life, Pac-Man just keeps getting harder and faster until you die.
So who is the video game wunderkind that reached Pac-Man’s highest level of achievement? Billy Mitchell was a video game prodigy in the early ’80s. He originally made his mark on the game Donkey Kong and was selected as one of the first five members of the inaugural Twin Galaxies 1983 US National Video Game Team. He set World Records for scores on several video games and was generally considered one of the greatest video game players ever.
To celebrate his “perfect game” accomplishment, he was given the Video Game Player of the Century award and was presented with the award by Namco’s founder, Masaya Nakamura.
To get a better picture of who the man is, I suggest you rent the movie, King of Kong: A Pocketful of Quarters. King of Kong is a documentary that follows family man Steve Wiebe as he tries to break Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong high score and all of the red tape he encounters when he finally does it and tries to get the score verified. It’s a very compelling movie that gives you a sense of Billy Mitchell and how he sees himself. And, to be honest, the man is a douchebag. Plain and simple. Look at his picture up there. That mullet, creepy pornstar beard and tie just scream douchebag. And he does everything possible to live up to the image he puts forth in his personal appearance. Since this movie’s release, he’s tried to protest how he was portrayed by saying that the movie’s creators edited around certain events to make him look bad. Twin Galaxies even came out in his defense. However, no amount of editing can remove that mullet. No amount. A somewhat “sister” documentary to King of Kong is Chasing Ghosts. It chronicles the 1983 Video Game Championships and the gamers that participated in it. I have yet to see this movie yet as it wasn’t released in my area and the DVD is not out yet. However it does include many of the principles from King of Kong, including Mr. Douchebag up there.
Allright, enough about the douche, what about Pac-Man? Pac-Man was developed over an 18 month period by Namco designer Toru Iwatani. He got the idea for Pac-Man in a couple ways. While dining at a late night pizza place he glanced at a large pizza pie with one slice missing, which also seemed to resemble a rounded out version of the Japanese character for “mouth”. He used this inspiration to create a family friendly game that was not a copy of everything else out at that time.
Most of the games in early 1980 were Space Invaders ripoffs involving aliens and gunships. Iwatani wanted to involve a wider audience by breaking out of this video game mold. When released in Japan, Iwatani’s game was named Puck Man and became an instant success.
Midway-Bally, the American pinball and game designer bought the license for Puck Man and converted it to Pac-Man for American gamers. The reason for the name change was obvious, anyone could markup or scratch away the ‘P’ in Puck to make an offensive word on the video game, so they decided to avoid any possible problems. Before releasing the game, they unveiled the final concept at one of the big Video Gaming Conventions that year. The video game critics at this convention were not impressed and picked the little known video game Rally-X as the best game of the show over Pac-Man and another soon to be hit, Defender. When Pac-Man reached the arcade floors, however, it quickly became the most played video game all year. To date, many consider it the most popular video game of all time.
Above you’ll see the Bally-Midway version of Pac-Man and the Namco original Puck Man machine. You can click it to make it bigger.
Whew. That’s all I’ll throw in for today. My bosses just let it be known that we are allowed to go home for the 4th. So I’ll have to conclude this little treatise later where I’ll discuss the affect Pac-Man has had on our popular culture.
Have a good 4th of July everyone! Viva America!
For more awesome, awesome pics and info on the game Puck Man check out Puckman.net. I used some of that site’s images to create the images for this article.