2013-05-22

Pac-Man vs Us: Honoring the 33rd Birthday of a Video Game

How do engineers celebrate the birthday of a beloved game? By building two different version using HTML 5.



Happy Birthday, Pac-Man. The whimsical game that made gaming accessible to the masses, inspired a generation of games and became a pop-culture phenomenon turns 33 today.

To celebrate, Fast Company developer Harry Guillermo has been building his own version using JavaScript. Guillermo's fascination with building Pac-Man stretches back 9 years, when he first hacked together a version in JavaScript without the aid of modern HTML 5 game engines. Today, the process of building an in-browser game is much easier, and offers more opportunities.

Pac-Man was invented before the Internet was commonplace. Instead of playing games online, people of all stripes gathered at arcades to have fun and see the latest technology. Elite gamers sometimes attracted crowds of onlookers and fans to their consoles, peering over shoulders to watch someone go for a high score. Games have come a long way since those days, of course, but somewhere along the way, the shared experience has been lost.

Just for Fun

Just for fun, we iterated on Guillermo's work and built Pac-Us: a socially controlled version of Pac-Man. Pac-Us uses Node.Js with Socket-IO to record the movements of every player. The cursor keys of everyone playing are averaged and the Pac-Man moves that direction. Weird, frustrating and surprisingly addicting social play, inspired by Pac-Man.

Try both versions below, and let us know what you think by tweeting @FastCoLabs.

Traditional PuckMan

To insert a coin, type the number 5. To start playing, type the number 1.

Socially Controlled Pac-Us

Pac-Man moves according to the crowd. Good luck!

[Image: FLickr user Max Braun]