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A Good Old-Fashioned Game of Pac-Man

July 14, 2002|GINNY CHIEN

The Pak Mann Arcade in Pasadena thrived in an era when Reagan occupied the Oval Office and everyone wondered who shot J.R. Times have changed, but the vintage game room remains largely the same, housing such coin-op classics as Asteroids, Donkey Kong and, of course, Pac-Man. Owner Eddy Hemaratanatorn recently threw a party celebrating Pak Mann's 20th anniversary and induction into the International Registry of Historic Video Game & Pinball Arcades-a significant milestone, considering that nearby residents have tried to close the venue. Die-hard gamers showed up to shell out more quarters, while nostalgic types revisited a fading pastime, crowding around the blinking machines as if it were 1985.

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Matthew Salata

30, Animator, Los Angeles

Favorite old-school game?

King of the Monsters 2. You get to wreck a bunch of stuff.

Memorable arcade moment?

That's got to be the first time I ate the pretzel [a special bonus-score snack] on Ms. Pac-Man.

Coolest game character ever?

Ms. Pac. She's faster and more deft around the curves than Pac-Man.

Your best trick?

There are no tricks. It's all just running away from the bullies.

How far has one quarter taken you?

I haven't had any really long games, but a friend of mine played 24 hours of Asteroids on just one quarter once.

What makes a game classic?

It's a crystallization of a defining aesthetic. In other words, it should have a certain look that is instantly recognizable.

If Pac-Man had a personality, what would he be like?

God-like. He was everywhere.

Ms. Pac-Man versus Lara Croft?

Let's put it this way. A movie about Ms. Pac would star Farrah Fawcett and be a much better picture.

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Raina Lee

25, Writer, Los Angeles

Favorite old-school game?

Ms. Pac-Man. I get into a Zen-like mode when I play.

Memorable arcade moment?

My parents used to own a Numero Uno pizza store, and we always had a couple of arcade games. I would play for hours. People watched me in awe. That was pretty gratifying.

Coolest game character ever?

I love the ships in R-Type. They're designed really beautifully.

Your best trick ?

In Ms. Pac-Man, if you get to a certain score, there's a place where you can hide and the ghosts can't see you.

Biggest video game challenge you've faced?

I used to play Street Fighter 2 against all the boys. It was tough being the only girl. People can get pretty emotional.

If Pac-Man had a personality, what would he be like?

He's a family man. Remember the Pac-Man cartoon? He had Baby Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. It was a tight-knit family.

Ms. Pac-Man versus Lara Croft?

Lara Croft is all right, but Ms. Pac-Man is much more ladylike.

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Bradford Adkins

32, Emergency Medical Technician, Altadena

Favorite old-school game?

Asteroids. It got me addicted to spaceship games.

Memorable arcade moment?

In high school, I came to this very arcade and passed [survived to the toughest level of] Asteroids. It was one of [my] highest scores.

Coolest game character ever?

Pac-Man. He's been around forever.

Your best trick?

Know when to give up, or you'll just get really frustrated.

How far has one quarter taken you?

I had an Atari when I was younger, so I didn't need a lot of quarters.

What makes a game classic?

Classics like Asteroids and Centipede are unique. Nowadays, the gaming industry is turning out so many games it's hard to tell one from the other sometimes.

If Pac-Man had a personality, what would he be like?

He kicks some serious butt.

Ms. Pac-Man versus Lara Croft?

Ms. Pac-Man. Lara Croft is just a passing fad. Someone newer will replace her.

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Walter Day

53, Video Game Scorekeeper,

Fairfield, Iowa

Tell us what it means to be the world's official 'Video Game Scorekeeper.'

If you're in Australia or Brazil or New York, and you think you just got the high score, you'll have to contact us at Twin Galaxies [Intergalactic] Scoreboard. [We] see if you've lived up to the requirements to be the world record holder.

Had any cheaters?

If people are serious, they'll tape their game so there won't be any doubt.

Favorite old-school game?

I loved Centipede, the pyrotechnics and consummate skill involved.

Coolest game character ever?

I favor notorious characters, like the ghosts in Pac-Man and, of course, the Centipede.

Your best trick?

We consider some tricks to be cheating. Those violate the spirit of the game.

What makes a game classic?

If it inspires other games. There are probably hundreds of games based on the Pac-Man concept.

If Pac-Man had a personality, what would he be like?

I don't have an answer for that.

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