Was Pac-Man the first Dungeons & Dragons arcade game?
Picture a game where the hero traverses winding corridors populated with wandering monsters. This is a dark realm where caches of treasure give our hero just enough power to fight back for a short time. This is an adventure. This is D&D. This is Pacman.
Released in 1980, Pac-Man took the world by storm. Indeed, given the excitement and number of man-hours gobbled up in recent days by Google Pacman it still does. 30 years on, the game has lost none of its charm or addictiveness.
I’m pretty sure that when the good folks at Namco designed Pac-Man they’d never heard of this fledgling role-playing hobby, but in a happy case of convergent evolution there are several similarities between our little yellow hungry friend and Dungeons & Dragons.
We have the hero, alone and outclassed. Anyone who has played a solo adventure will know how that feels. The Wandering Monsters (so popular back in the day, now all but forgotten) each have a personality of their own, and employ different strategies to assault our lone adventurer.
Then there’s the treasure: those Power Pellets which equip our hero with a Sword +1, a Wand of Fireballs or whatever other D&D metaphor takes your fancy. He has enough power to fight back at last – until the monsters themselves increase in power and gain a few more Hit Dice, and the cycle begins again.
And all the while, the Experience Points score steadily rises…..
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UPDATE: As has rightly been pointed out, Zork predates Pac-Man as a computer game. Blogpost title changed to “arcade game” accordingly.