The Perfect Game – Confessions of a Pac-Man Junkie.
Extract from the book with permission from the Author Tim Balderramos.
“I remember seeing my first Pac-Man game in December 1981 at The Circus Arcade in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I stepped into the glow of the brightly lit marquee beckoning from the top of the machine and put my first quarter – the first of many – into the coin slot. The object seemed simple – so simple I didn’t bother reading the instructions. Clearly, I was supposed to eat the colorful ghosts that ran around the board. As they appeared to be running away from me, I targeted the red creature as my first victim. Suddenly, he reversed direction and ran after me. The hunter became the hunted! Only problem was, the hunter turned hunted was oblivious to what was going on and protested that the game “must be broken” when the red ghost, whom I learned went by the nickname “Blinky,” ate my Pac-Man. Well, after this first embarrassment, it might have been easy to simply abandon this game and choose another, easier game to master. But for some reason, I couldn’t. The game’s unique appeal had, as it had for millions of others, gotten a hold of me and refused to let go. I was hooked. I had caught, as the obscure singing duo Buckner & Garcia would later describe in song, Pac-Man Fever.
The more I played, the higher my score grew. Coming to the arcade each day to see my name displayed on the leader board was a natural high for me. I was really obsessed now, even bringing a calculator to keep track of which key I was on while displaying a placard to show how many times I rolled the machine over as I pushed toward the world record in 1983.
By 1985, I essentially “retired” from the game, confident that my status as the World Champ was the source of permanent bragging rights for me. Little did I know, however, that not only was Pac-Man still being played, it was being perfected. A handful of Pac-Masters were finding methods to score more and more points, eclipsing anything done before. At first I felt that a perfect game was beyond my reach. But for whatever reason, from out of the blue, the fever struck yet again. For some reason, I had to – HAD to – keep trying. I had to learn more. I had to study, practice and work even harder. The desire to reach the top returned. I could get that record! I must get that record!! Unfortunately, like “hitting the wall” in a marathon – the point where you feel your body can go no further, I had “hit a wall” in Pac-Man. I could not figure out how to do any better than I had. I needed something more to get me over the hump – some form of inspiration and guidance. It came in the form of the 2001 Video Game Festival at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Watching top players demonstrating their skills live and watching world record runs provided me with the confidence I needed. I could do this! I went to work on the final pieces of the puzzle. In ten months I had it! I was ready to make my final assault….”