The modern Game Designer can learn a lot from Pac-Man

Pac-Man celebrates his 33rd birthday this year. Wow. I’m sure it’s hard to believe for those of us who fed the yellow monster quarters and penny’s galore throughout the 80’s. Well, harder still to process is the fact that in many ways Pac-Man set the template for social games almost 30 years before the term was proliferated.

Modern game designers have often grown up around narrative masterpieces, with titles like Final Fantasy VII, Bioshock and Planescape: Torment inspiring many young folks to dive into the profession. Some of these designers may never have stood in an arcade (Whats an Arcade, dude?) and pumped change into a Pac-Man cabinet just to best that guy in the top spot. Whats worth noting is that while narrative is something that is incredibly important in modern gaming, the fundamentals of game design at its basest level are best observed in classic arcade titles … Like Pac-Man.

Anyhow, I’m rambling off topic. Social mechanics. They are something we’re very passionate about here at Gamesparks and we believe that developers should care about them too. Pac-Man knew this over 3 decades ago. What made Pac-Man such a success? Well, there were a number of factors (obviously) but one very important element was that it was a social game. Friends hung around in arcades challenging each others high-scores, making bets on games and desperately hoping they could bask in the shared glory of someone making it to that infamous kill screen. Achievement unlocked…

So when you’re designing your mobile or browser based game, pause for a minute and think about that little yellow motor mouth and how he was doing social mechanics… before it was cool. Learning from him could very well mean the difference between your game being a million seller or a hidden gem.



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