How did this happen? I caught a post on Usenet a couple months ago saying there would a Pac-Man coin-op ornament released in October, so I set a reminder in my PDA. (That's what they're for, right?) It goes off today, so I go looking at the Hallmark web site to see if I can find the date. What I find is an ornament page with the photo you see to the right.
That's not the coin-op I remember and loved. Yes, it's yellow. Yes, the shape's right. Yes, it has the lovely, red-knobbed joystick. But the marquee and side art, two of the most important distinguishing characteristics of an arcade cabinet, are all wrong. What I remember is the classic Midway cabinets, like the one to the left (photo stolen from the KLOV).
What, I wondered, had gone wrong? Could it be that somehow, after Midway's Pac-Man contract expired and Namco got the rights back in the States that they could no longer use the art from Midway's cabinets? Is this, perhaps, what the cabinets looked like in Japan, except for having "Pac-Man" where it was "Puc-Man"?
Unfortunately, my Google fu failed me and I could not find a photo of the Japanese coin-op. But I did come across what you see to the right at the Brookstone web site: a 25th anniversary coin-op for home use. Look, right there on the side! That's the Midway artwork! (Yes, with a 25th anniversary Pac-Man logo over the top of it, but that's irrelevant.) Obviously, Namco can still use the artwork.
So now I'm just baffled. Hallmark has made a Pac-Man coin-op ornament, advertised under "Nostalgia & Fun," but made something that doesn't actually look like what Generation X will remember. Nostalgia is a very tricky thing. No, an item need not look exactly like the original to invoke it, but it needs to be close. Hallmark's ornament falls short of that. I don't care if it does make the original arcade sounds -- which is cool, I admit -- I'm not nearly as interested as I was and probably won't bother to buy it now.
Am I being to picky? Has my years of dedication to the classic video games as a hobby clouded my judgment? Will others not remember the Pac-Man cabinet as well as I? I may have to poll my friends. Maybe that's also a good excuse to let them know about my new blog!