In the Pac-Man series of video games, it is pretty obvious that the ghosts are, well, ghosts of some sort.

What kind of a creature is Pac-Man?

  • Is he an alien?
  • Is he a robot?
  • Is he some specific kind of fantasy creature (e.g. a goblin, a fairy, etc.)?

Is his nature ever explained in any of the games, instruction manuals for the games, or any secondary material (e.g. comics, interviews, press releases, etc.)?

  • 23
    He's a 'Pac' what of it?
    – Möoz
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:44
  • 43
    According to his name he's a man.
    – wunth
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 3:17
  • 11
    @Mooz: If we go by the original Japanese, he is a puck. His name was changed when brought over to America, for understandable reasons.
    – user12616
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 6:21
  • 4
    As an aside, there is an old Atari game by Ozark called M.U.L.E which was essentially a commodity trading game. One of the alien species you can choose is called a "Packer" which resembles a fat Pacman with legs. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 10:02
  • 38
    While non-canonical, I like this T-shirt's answer: playthepast.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/636x460design_01.jpg
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 10:03

2 Answers 2


A pizza with a slice missing

It is reported[1] that the creator of Pac-Man, Toru Iwatani:

...imagined something different, a video game that looked and felt like a cartoon. Inspiration struck, as it so often does, while he was eating a pizza. Noting that a pizza pie with one slice removed resembled an open-mouthed head, Iwatani had a vision: an animated pizza, racing through a maze and eating things with its absent-slice mouth. By any account, this is a bizarre vision, and it still packs a certain deranged wallop, even in the current animated-food era of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. (Animated food did indeed hit the video game world soon after, in Data East’s deeply weird 1982 release, Burger Time.) But we can be thankful for the technical limitations that forced Iwatani to abandon his pizza epiphany and recast his protagonist in the lemony hue we’ve come to know.
-Chris Green: Pac-Man, Salon (2002-06-18).

and re-iterated in the Pac-Man Museum website[2]:

As videogame legend has it, Iwatani took his inspiration for the shape of the Pac-Man character from seeing a pizza with a slice missing. Pac-Man's form was dictated by punitative hardware limitations, which Iwatani used to his advantage in a move that was either a great insight or a marvelously lucky fluke: Pac-Man does not represent a physical, real-world being, he represents his primary function (eating).
-Character, pacmanmuseum.com.

This second one can be considered reputable as they tend to have interviewed Toru and may actually been the originators of this fact.

  • 43
    Pac-Man's modern form is spherical. So... Closest thing he could be is a calzone.
    – user31178
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 4:16
  • 11
  • 37
    But inspiration does not imply equation. Just because he was inspired by a pizza with a slice missing does not imply he is that; and, in fact, the second source seems to confirm that: "Pac-Man does not represent a physical, real-world being, he represents his primary function (eating)." So while I like your answer, I don't think it's correct.
    – istrasci
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 17:19
  • 5
    Not sure why this has so many upvotes. It's clearly not canon (anymore), given subsequent games and other media. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 18:08
  • 18
    @istrasci I like that. Pac-man is a supra-dimensional abstract non-Eucliedean entity who embodies the very concept of eating. Much more interesting than the spherical "Pac-people" of later adaptations. I wonder if the ghosts are Lovecraftian horrors lurking in the corners of these strange folds of Platonic existence. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 21:24

Pac-Man is a Pac-Person, a presumably biological species that lives on Pac-World (Or PacLand, as it's called in the 1982 Pac-Man TV Series):

Likely, PacLand is a region or continent of Pac-World

His modern depiction has been around since Ms. Pac-Man arcade game and the original Pac-Man TV series, although it varies slightly from the cabinet art on the original arcade machine.

Left: 1980 Pac-Man arcade cabinet featuring a Pac-Man with legs, but no arms. Right: Pac-Man as featured in the latest Smash Bros. game, matching up with the more fully-featured and limbed version seen since 1982

Since 1982, when Ms. Pac-Man was originally released, we've known there are additional Pac-People, and the idea that they have arms, noses, and eyebrows came into play.

Original 1982 Ms. Pac-Man cabinet, showing the general design for yellow Pac-People that became here to stay, next to a closeup of related game art.

we've since also seen other family, such as additional children and uncles. (However, the newer TV show is set when Pac-Man was a teenager, so before his time with Ms. Pac-Man).

Some of his kind are known to grow hair:

Picture of mustachioed Professor Pac-Man from 1999's Pac-Man World, a 3D adventure game for PlayStation 1

And although they appear biological, how they're "born" is unclear. The main evidence we have is that storks can deliver infants, but we don't know exactly where the infants come from:

The cutscene from the original Ms. Pac-Man game showing a stork delivering Jr. Pac-Man

Another indicator that they're biological is that their big mouth and tongue are also used to eat more than just power pellets (or bonus fruit), as his species seems to be able to consume a wide variety of foods (and for pleasure, not just energy):

"I really should work on my self-control" - Pac-Man, immediately prior to eating a whole hamburger in one bite, followed by pretty much everything else on the table.

There are also Pac-People in a variety of colors and shapes, as seen in PAC-MAN: The Ghostly Adventures.

A note is that in the original TV series, all the Pacs we see are some sort of yellow color, even those in the final episode "Happy Pacs-Giving" (where Miles Pac-Man named Pac-Land). In the new series, yellow Pacs are considered rare. Additionally, as we see in that same Pacs-Giving episode, Pacs consume a variety of foods (as evidenced by their table full of a traditional "Pacs-Giving" dinner).

  • 11
    This answer is much more satisfying than the other answer.
    – CodeMed
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 0:43
  • 30
    I disagree. This stinks of retconning for the purposes of making the TV show relatable. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 3:30
  • 7
    @ToddWilcox This actually answers OP's question though, unlike the other answer. I do think this answer needs citations though, especially for Pac-Person and Pac-World. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 4:55
  • 6
    @ToddWilcox Retcon? That doesn't make any sense. The TV show may be the first to explicitly state that Pac-Man is a Pac-Person, but Pac-Man's original Japanese artwork depicts him exactly the same as the first 3D render in this answer (from Super Smash Bros., based off his long-standing Pac-Man World design)...
    – ArrowCase
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 17:42
  • 4
    @ToddWilcox The "no arms" abomination was the American version. The original Japanese version had arms. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 19:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.