Redefining a Modern Classic: The Rise of Ms. Pac-Man
By Matt Osborne
May 5, 2020
What if I told you that Ms. Pac-Man was created in Japan by Namco, but also in the basement of a house in Wayland, Massachusetts? That's right, Ms. Pac-Man started off as an enhancement kit for the original Pac-Man arcade cabinet.
Thanks to oral history interviews with three of Ms. Pac-Man’s original creators, we know that it was originally known as Crazy Otto, and was the product of five former MIT students working out of the depths of their shared abode in Middlesex County 1 . They had formed a company known as General Computer Corporation, and their efforts in the enhancement kit market had caught the attention of Atari. After settling a lawsuit for a different game, Atari offered the firm $1.2 million dollars over two years to develop games for them. Using these funds, they developed what would become to be known as Ms. Pac-Man. After reaching out to Midway, American representatives of the Pac-Man brand, GCC was given permission to officially license Crazy Otto and turn it into a Pac-Man licensed sequel 2 .
The actual development of the game happened in Wayland, but the idea to make the main character a woman and her specific visual cues were given from Namco in Japan, the original owners of the Pac-Man brand. In the span of two weeks, Crazy Otto went from Super Pac-Man to Miss Pac-Man and finally to Ms.Pac-Man. While Namco denies to this day that Ms. Pac-Man was developed outside of Japan, GCC has been credited as the original creators of the arcade cabinet and receives 10% of the revenue. Ms. Pac-Man remains a worldwide icon and a pioneer in the video game industry 3 .