Pac-Man | Design Icons

While a nascent games industry was laser focused on emulating the success of Taito’s Space Invaders, one designer tried to make something completely different – and ended up creating our second design icon: Pac-Man.

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Retro Gamer UK Issue 61 | Retro Gamer

Toru Iwatani, 1986 PacMan Designer | Programmers At Work

Pacman: The Phenomenon | GameSpy

Q&A: Pac-Man Creator Reflects on 30 Years of Dot-Eating | Wired

The Pac-Man Dossier | Gamasutra

Pac-Man Interview with creator Toru Iwatani at GDC 2011 | YouTube

Interview 1 Vol. 1 with Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani |

Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto… | Google Books

Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani | Japan Times

I Am Error… | Google Books

These games inspired Cliff Bleszinski, John Romero, Will Wright, and Sid Meier | Joystiq

GO3: Kojima Talks Metal Gear History, Future | Gamasutra

Learn More

Pac-Man Creator Toru Iwatani Biograph | Pac-Man Museum

Postmortem: Pac-Man, Iwatani’s rhapsody in yellow | Gamasutra

The Pac-Man Principle: A User’s Guide To Capitalism | Google Books

Toru Iwatani: Pac-Man and the real life of games design | Financial Times

Toru Iwatani – Mechanics of Pac Man | YouTube

Extra Footage

Tokyo Landscapes | Bolo Bellheimer

The Ultimate Early 80s Arcade Tribute | Patrick Scott Patterson

Pinball Machine, 1970s USA | thekinolibrary

80s Japan – Video Arcade | NichiBeiTrader

Happy Birthday Pac-Man: A look at news coverage in 1982 | Patrick Scott Patterson

Professor Toru Iwatani Gamelab Legend Award Interview | Gamereactor

Traffic, Busy Streets, Shibuya Crossing | thekinolibrary

Manhattan, New York 1980 | Mackenzie Rough


1984 Pac-Man Cereal Commercial | xntryk1

Pac-Man Atari commercial compilation | Toy lover

When Pac-Man was King – CBS Evening News | Shatner Method

Music used in this episode

Sun Bleach – Lifeformed (
Various – Lee Rosevere (
Pac-Man Fever – Buckner & Garcia

Wreck-It Ralph © Disney
Tom and Jerry © Warner Bros
Popeye © Turner Entertainment
Little Ghost Q-Taro © TV Asahi
Casper the Friendly Ghost © DreamWorks
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World © Universal Pictures
Pac-Man © Warner Bros


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  1. I knew I recognised that intro sting. Double Fine Adventure is awesome, and its soundtrack is so good!

  2. Can you please continue this series? I just loved these videos:))))

  3. Whatever happened to design icons?

  4. Wow Pac-Man is a lot more complicated than I realized!

  5. It's got something for everyone; action and gameplay for men, cute graphics and silly cutscenes for women, simple design and understandable gameplay for casual players, complex and intricate ai for advanced players, easy to grasp and understand for beginners, challenging and difficult for experts, and overall with its simplistic nature it leaves almost everything up to the imagination. It's really amazing, isn't it?

  6. When I was a kid and Pac-Man was in arcades, I was utterly confused by the teardrop-shaped, legged yellow character depicted on the cabinet. I suppose that depiction illustrates that the circular digital character was at first considered a best effort at approximating some creature we might imagine in the real world. And only later did the caretakers of the brand realize they should embrace the unusual but simple representation.

  7. "Creating a fun game is not about satisfying yourself as a developer." – I feel like this a lesson that amateur designers really need to learn. So many people's first attempts at making games, especially puzzles, is more about proving how smart they are and how clever their puzzles are. But good designers make the players feel smart and clever. That's the real challenge–making something just hard enough that it feels good to solve while still giving players enough tools to solve it.

  8. This is such a great series – I wish you’d do more.

  9. Ultima Underworld had a replica of Pac-Man in level 5 (iirc) complete with ghosts and pellets.

  10. This series lasted all of one month. Bit of a shame, too; I was really looking forward to episodes in the 1985-2005 region, because those games really changed everything

  11. Crazy to think that concerns about the level of violence in games was a thing even back then. And that so much of the industry, again even back then, was reliant on just making knockoffs of what was already popular.

  12. 3:50 uhh did you forget something?
    The pinky up bug
    If pacman is facing up, pinky'starget is 4 tiles in front AND to the left of pacman.

  13. Toru Iwatani, I salute you. 🙂

  14. Those are computer monitors in Sonic???? I always thought it was like a glass box……..neat!!!

  15. what's the music playing at 1:17???

  16. 1:22 Hey, that looks like the ghosts! Looks like both designs had that inspiration.

  17. Did you know that the original name for Pac-Man was Puck-Man? You'd think it was because he looks like a hockey puck but it actually comes from the Japanese phrase 'Paku-Paku,' which means to flap one's mouth open and closed. They changed it because they thought Puck-Man would be too easy to vandalize, you know, like people could just scratch off the P and turn it into an F or whatever.

  18. Fascinating! I love the simple rules that give the illusion of ghost teamwork.

  19. Please more Design Icons PLEASE?

  20. I really enjoy your videos, very well done, well researched and professional. But your usage of the term "artificial intelligence" is – and i think you know this – absolutely wrong. Yes it appeals to the non-software folks, but it's a disservice to them nonetheless. Take nothing away from the game, the designer, or you and this video. In fact I'm about to run the pattern on Pac-Man using my own build of MAME on a Raspberry Pi and an X-Tankstick. But that pattern would not work if there were any AI involved, right? 😉 Please don't take offense personally. But there might be one budding future software engineer out there, and we wouldn't want him or her getting the wrong notion now would we?

  21. Hello is there any chance this series will continue? It’s very informative and very well done, and it’s been a while. Any one else with me?

  22. Hearing about the ins and outs of Pac-Man's design is the best feeling that seeing behind the curtain or learning the magician's tricks has been for me. What an amazing game. Revolutionary

  23. What happened to this series?

  24. Русские есть?

  25. Did you know that the original name for Pac-Man was Puck-Man? You'd think it was because he looks like a hockey puck but it actually comes from the Japanese phrase 'Paku-Paku,' which means to flap one's mouth open and closed. They changed it because they thought Puck-Man would be too easy to vandalize, you know, like people could just scratch off the P and turn it into an F or whatever.

  26. Gotta love pac man fever. 10/10 song.

  27. Loving this series (and all your videos), particularly the reference to one of my own games (Crash Bandicoot) — even if you did use footage from the reboot rather than the (better, no bias here :-)) original!

  28. PacMan became a worldwide phenomenon. It did not become a worldwide phenomena.

  29. This tweet is about Pac-Man's sound effect design.
    In this video, Japanese game composer, Yuzo Koshiro, is playing Pac-Man's sound, with KORG's new synthesizer.

  30. No offence, but, is Pac-man really non-violent?

  31. You're visualization of the AI was a little off. There's a glitch that shifts the target to the left when pacman looks up. Doesn't normally matter, but there is a way to be untouchable because of it.

  32. man im sitting here at 4 am, and i just cannot stop watching your videos. How does one create content this good?!

  33. The thing I find most interesting about the ghost AI in Pac-Man is how necessary it is from a game design perspective for the game. On the surface, it feels like a flourish, something a brilliant game designer did just because they could. But if you dig a bit deeper, you find that it really couldn't have gone another way. It wasn't the difference between a good game and a great game; it was the difference between a great game and a broken one.

    If you ever tried to code Pac-Man yourself, you will quickly find that if you give all the ghosts the same (relatively simple) AI… they eventually all bunch up together. This turns multiple ghosts into just one or two ghosts. So why bother having so many of them?

    Chase mode, from this perspective, is not only a way to give the player a break; it's also a way to split the ghosts up. Giving each ghost different AI serves a similar purpose.

    Design like this is necessary for making the game actually work.

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