(The Board) Games People Play: #1, Pac-Man

East of the M60’s opens the first door on this year’s Advent Calendar

This year’s Advent Calendar will be focusing on obscure board games. As well as a little look at the board games, seemingly lost in the mists of time, each piece is prefaced by a diary entry. Fictitious yet reflective from our chosen era (1982 – 83), it covers the diary entries of a teenage lad called James South.

Saturday 25 December 1982

Santa didn’t get me the TV game I wanted. All of my friends at school wanted Atari TV games like myself, but my Mum and Dad said they couldn’t afford the £30 for a Space Invaders cartridge. Instead I had to be content with Grandstand’s Invader From Space. Fun for about five minutes, till the batteries run out. Still a bit peeved; Mum and Dad said I should get a paper round and save up for my own computer.

I would give my right arm for a spherical yellow greedy guts who never gets full up. Yet chases after ghosties after 24 flashing Smarties (heck, Giant Haystacks cannot do that after four fish suppers from George’s place).

My sister bought me Raiders of the Pop Charts (both LPs would you believe – good on her). The worst present I received was this board game off my Auntie Eileen.

Pac-Man (Milton Bradley, 1982)

If you lived in America in 1982, you would have heard about The Great Videogames Crash. Especially the story of several ET and Pac-Man cartridges being buried in a desert. The real story behind this was cack like Chuck The Chase Wagon, Purina’s attempt at joining the video games market. Quaker Oats tried their hands at publishing videogames for the Atari 2600. Oh, and the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man was bobbins.

Pac-Man was huge in the early 1980s. There was plenty of spin-offs like an animated TV series; various follow-ups to the original arcade game; even handheld LCD games. In 1982, Milton Bradley (whose GCE arm also released the Vectrex console in the same year) released a Pac-Man board game.

As for the gameplay, it is a bit like the arcade game but slower. You had up to four Pac-Men on the board, starting from a ‘Home’ square. Like the pixelled version, you had ghosts. If you bumped into one of them, you returned to your home square. Instead of power pills, you had marbles. The Pac-Man which ate the most marbles won the game.

Sounds familiar? If you’ve played Hungry Hippos, it should be. Except for the fact you dodged ghosties on a cardboard maze. And that was it. Over in about 30 minutes. Enough to get you out of watching The One Show.

Gobble, gobble, gobble…

Here’s a 1984 advert featuring the aforementioned board game. At £9.00 in 1984, this is equivalent to £27.50 in today’s money. Ouch!

S.V., 01 December 2017.

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