1979: Before Halo, before World of Warcraft, before Myst, there was Pac-Man. On this day, Pac-Man makes its debut in Japan.
While it wasn't the first videogame -- arcade games, including video ones, had existed for years -- Pac-Man turned videogaming into a phenomenon by burning it into the collective consciousness in a way that previous games did not.
The brainchild of Toru Iwatani, a designer for Namco, a Japanese software company, Pac-Man is a model of complex simplicity. The concept -- the player controls a blob with a mouth that navigates a two-dimensional maze, eating dots and ghosts while trying to avoid being eaten itself -- could have been dreamed up by a 10 year old. But try racking up big points; ah, there's the rub.
The game received a lukewarm reception in Japan (where it was originally sold under the name Puck-Man), but became an instant hit when it arrived in the United States. The name was supposedly changed to Pac-Man for the U.S. market for fear that some bright wit might alter the spelling into an obscenity.
Regardless of the name, Pac-Man quickly left every existing arcade game in its wake. Versions were made to accommodate virtually every platform out there and spinoffs of the game itself, such as Ms. Pac-Man, were marketed to feed off the popularity of the original.
Nearly three decades after its appearance, Pac-Man is still being sold and remains one of the most popular videogames of all time.