If you had tapped my little kid self on the shoulder, let’s say in the summer of 1982, and said, “Elizabeth, in 2010 YOU will be attending the 30th birthday party for THIS video game!” I would have probably freaked out or more likely, totally ignored you, because I was focused on my “Pac-Man Pattern”. There was a Pac-Man arcade game at my swim club and I swear I spent a good chunk of my parents money in that machine as well as more time playing it than actually swimming. I got really good at Pac-Man. To this day I can’t pass a Pac-Man arcade game without tossing a quarter in. When the invitation to Pac-Man’s 30th Birthday Party hit my e-mail inbox I was totally stoked. I spent a few hours on Tuesday at E3 (the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo) and then headed over with my buddy Eunice to Nokia Live for the Pac-Man birthday party. This perfectly coincided with the beginning of the Celtics/Lakers Game 6 of the NBA Finals and required us to walk past the The Staples Center (where the game was) to get between The LA Convention Center (where E3 was) and Nokia Live. Cops were everywhere and I made a point of asking them WHEN they thought the game would let out. They said about 8:30-9pm. I knew that Eunice and I DID NOT want to be on the streets especially if the Lakers lost. In fact, one might question the wisdom of being in that area at all that night considering the shenanigans of fans in previous years. But this was for PAC-MAN! Oh, the further irony? I grew up playing Pac-Man in the suburbs of Boston, so I’m a die-hard Celtics fan…Who lives in LA.
We sailed right into the party and I made a bee-line for Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. There were a lot of people from Namco Bandai, the Japanese company that makes Pac-Man. I ran into a guy wearing a nifty looking Pac-Man sweatshirt and asked him about it. He told me he “approved the design for Australia and New Zealand” and went on to say he works for Namco in Japan. I asked him if he could send me one. I kind of just asked him to get his response. He said, “Impossible! Only in Australia and New Zealand!” It was like I had made an outrageous request. I also think the poor chap was a bit of a victim of the language/culture barrier. Next the heads of the company got up on stage and made some announcements about the company. I learned that Toru Iwatani invented the game and was inspired by looking at a pizza. Which is funny because I’ve often looked at a pizza with a slice out of it and thought: Pac-Man! They told us that over 450 items have been licensed with Pac-Man on it. That Pac-Man Fever was a hit single in 1982—I remember. Then Hollywood Producer, Avi Arad took the stage and announced a forthcoming Pac-Man movie. 3-D glasses were passed out and we were all directed to watch 3-D HD tv’s set up around the room. Basically, it was a 3 minute trailer for a Pac-Man movie yet to be even announced from what I can find and Hollywood is one thing I do know. They had a bunch of different devices set up all over the room: Ipads, Iphones, every home video game console, every handheld video game, we could demo every version of Pac-man available. They even have newer versions of arcade size Pac-Man machines coming out like Pac-Man Battle Royale. I tried playing it and just couldn’t really get the hang of it. Thank god they had two old school, ORIGINAL Pac-Man games. That’s where I belonged, with my childhood pattern still embedded in my brain. A glass of cabernet in one hand, the joystick in the other. I muttered under my breath, “1983, don’t fail me now…” Tee, hee! So, what can I say? Pac-Man for me is that arcade game. A piece of my childhood.
So, it was coming up on 8:30 and Eunice and I headed out of the party. As we hustled past a bar, we could see there were a few minutes left in the 4th quarter of the game. The Lakers had a big lead. Here was the issue: We had to make it PAST The Staples Center and to the far side of The LA Convention Center to the parking structure where we had parked. Ugh. All the cops had riot helmets with face shields in their hands. Nice. There were a ton of cops. As we hit the first corner to cross towards The Staples Center I asked the first group of cops how much time we had. “Four minutes” was the response. Honestly, I wasn’t overly worried, but there sure wasn’t any UPSIDE to being out there when the game let out. As we made it past The Staples Center and were about to cross to walk past The Convention Center, I asked the next group of cops, “Are you expecting trouble?” One cop said, “If the Lakers lose.” I yelled back over my shoulder, “But, they aren’t gonna lose, right?” He said, “Right.” We made it about the length of two football fields to the parking garage, hopped in Eunice’s car and caught the freeway out. All for Pac-Man. All for a piece of my childhood.