How does Pac-Man compare to modern immersive console games?

The video games industry has grown at an incredible pace in the last few decades. In 2022 the industry was estimated to be worth around 347 billion dollars globally, making it one of the most popular forms of electronic entertainment. 

As technology has improved and the skill of game designers has developed, modern console games are becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate from watching a TV broadcast or a movie. Advanced graphical techniques such as ray tracing help to create incredibly realistic gaming environments by plotting every ray of light. In addition, improved character animations and the use of facial mapping software can create non-player characters and other in-game characters that look incredibly lifelike. In short, modern console games that use next-gen technology are creating gaming experiences that are increasingly lifelike and immersive. 

However, it may come as a surprise to know that some classic video games still enjoy a large and loyal following. The classic Pac-Man was first released in Japan in 1980. Almost immediately, the game enjoyed a cult following that was built on each year. Today, it’s available on a range of platforms, including smartphones. In this article, the appeal of Pac-Man will be explored, and how the game compares to modern immersive console games.

Easy to learn, difficult to master

One of the key aspects of any popular video game is how quickly its functions can be learned. Some of the best games across all genres are easy to learn (in terms of the basic controls and gameplay) but require skill and patience to truly master. 

For example, in the Battlefield franchise of first-person shooter (FPS) games, the core mechanics are incredibly easy to pick up. Moving, turning and shooting are vital aspects of the game, and these can be learned almost immediately. Many gamers will have played FPS games before and will find that the basic controls are similar across various titles. However, in immersive team shooter games, communication, positioning, and teamwork are essential for success. These skills take time to learn and rely on understanding your teammate’s behavior as well as a comprehensive knowledge of the in-game maps. 

Conversely, Pac Man arcade has far simpler gameplay mechanics that simply involve eating the on-screen pellets, and avoiding the ghosts until you’re powered up enough to eat them. However, it’s important to recognize that Pac-Man also adheres to the mantra of being easy to learn but difficult to master. The controls are incredibly simple and can be learned in a matter of seconds. Most players will be able to complete the early levels without any major problems, but on the later levels, they will quickly find that the pace of the game increases and there’s more of a need to constantly dodge the on-screen enemies. 

Reactions are key to success at higher levels, and time must be spent mastering rapid movements whilst constantly planning the direction of travel. In short, Pac-Man may be far less sophisticated than many modern games, but still boasts gameplay that’s easy to learn but deceptively difficult to master. 

Appeals to all ages

As modern games have grown in complexity and sophistication, they’re increasingly being aimed at adult markets. For example, the hugely popular Grand Theft Auto series of games is aimed at older gamers. These games typically have an 18+ age rating, as they feature graphic violence and a range of adult themes in their stories. 

When you contrast such games with the classic Pac-Man, it’s immediately apparent that this game has almost universal appeal with gamers of all ages. There’s no on-screen violence to speak of, and no guns or weapons to use. The simplistic and fun nature of the game gives it a timeless appeal that provides fun for both adults and children alike. In an age where many new game releases feature disturbing themes and are primarily aimed at a mature audience, it can be refreshing to play a game that simply promotes entertainment that doesn’t revolve around violence.

The retro games market is growing

Whilst billions of gamers will eagerly wait for the next triple-A title to arrive, it’s also important to recognize that the market for retro gaming continues to thrive. Older gamers may enjoy the nostalgia that comes from playing a classic title as it reminds them of their youth. 

Retro games typically feature painstakingly hand-drawn sprites and characters that give them a style that’s unique to the genre. This style is complemented by captivating 8-bit or 16-bit soundtracks that have become iconic in some games (such as the early Super Mario games on the NES and Game Boy). 

In short, whilst immersive modern games are markedly different from retro games, the appeal for both forms of video gaming continues to grow and appeal to diverse audiences.