NOTE: Oui Magazine, a men’s adult pornographic magazine, French in origin, was first introduced to America in 1972 by Playboy Enterprises. In the April 1982/Volume 11 #4 , Oui Magazine paid l’homage to Pacmania by publishing a layout of semi-nude roller girls gliding through a Pac-Man themed landscape.
Although I realize that some people may not find this sort of thing neither educational nor in good taste, I would have to argue that it is, indeed, educational regardless of poor taste. Like it or not, these erotic and fanciful visuals, the kind that might sometimes reflect a base human instinct, are a huge part of pop culture and gaming history. To not acknowledge this history is to ignore the vast majority of rather erotic albeit oftentimes sexist imagery that’s been associated with gaming advertising graphics since coin op’s inception. Any historical researcher worth their weight in tokens would not fail to note that. Worse still would be to judge it as being something that should not be talked about for fear of pushing buttons. I happen to hold the belief that pushing buttons is largely a good thing. Button pushers are, quite often enough, the dispensers of wisdom and knowledge that others think we don’t need.
In the Spring of 1982 Pac-Man was everywhere.
And much like Smiley a.k.a. “The Happy Face“, created by Harvey Ball in 1963, and whose image once decorated condom packs that were passed out as party favors at The Playboy Mansion, Pac-Man’s face and form was marketed upon everything from socks to breakfast cereals.
Basically, if Pac-Man’s image could be made to fit upon something, no matter the product, it was done. So, as you may imagine, the consumer response to Pac-Man’s image on common household products generated just as much of a craze as the game did. Maybe more. Even if you never stepped foot into an arcade, you still knew who Pac-Man was because he was more famous than The Marlboro Man.
But one thing I do not think Smiley “The Happy Face” ever accomplished was being cast inside a gentlemen’s magazine next to nude and bare-breasted women. That dubious honor belongs, of course, to Pac-Man.
It’s quite astonishing to learn that Pac-Man was allotted 14-pages in a porn mag whose format was dedicated to nudity, dirty jokes and cigarette ads. Even more surprising is no one complained that he was. If this were to occur today, say with Mario Bros or Sonic, one could expect a full-blown social media firestorm due to the fact that we’re more sensitive to sexism and the marginalization of women today than society was then, and rightly so. Evolution is a good thing.
I must admit that when I first got my hands on this magazine, which was generously gifted to me from a friend who operates a vintage toy and collectible shop in Portland, Oregon, I was kind of nervous about what I might find inside. See, years back I had ran across some rather crass vintage magazine scans of nude girls being ravaged by a rather endowed Pac-Man while he himself was getting caboosed by Blinky the Ghost. It was an image I’d have rather not seen. It left skid marks on my 80s-loving brain faster than a DeLorean peeling out on smoking hot summer asphalt.
Thankfully, this was not that kind of magazine, though. What I found inside instead was, in my opinion, rather charming in a French Burlesque sort of way. It was playful. Kitschy. Not crass.
But beyond the fanciful and playful photos of women on roller skates flashing a bare bottom or a breast while cavorting with Pac-Man, this issue is literally jam-packed with culturally historical information not found elsewhere to my knowledge.
For one, there is a lot of info on night club arcades, the actual first kind of video arcade scene to exist in America before get-rich-quick small businessmen introduced a tamer version of them to the under-21 crowd…and the rest is history. These are the arcade communities of yore that you never hear about, that never make it into films or documentaries because most people writing on arcade history today aren’t aware that they existed. And, of course, the ones who do know about them tend to keep it on the low because the adult arcade scene was not the wholesome environment that most people associate arcade games with. Sex, drugs and rock and roll permeated most “barcades” and “beercades” in The late 70s and early 80s. This is why the teen arcades of The 80s were immediately suspected of promoting the same environment. They sort of did, though, but on a way smaller scale due to teens not having the income nor lifestyle freedom that adults had.
By the way, the Oui article refers to adult arcades as being “barcades” and “beercades”. So, despite many believing the term was coined around 2002, apparently it wasn’t. The terms “barcade” and “beercade” first appear in press around 1978, but there’s chance it was used even earlier. Some say that Andy Warhol coined the phrase in 1974, but I’ve no idea if that’s true.
As a teen in 1982, I knew nightclubs often had full-sized arcades inside of them, but the goings on in those adult playgrounds were, of course, an unknown world to me. To be honest, I figured people just hung around, got drunk or stoned and played video games with people they wanted to hook up with. A single’s bar with video games. Nothing unusual for The Me Generation’s standards of living, whose mantra was, “If it feels good…do it.” But according to this issue of Oui, a lot more was going on in these “adult arcades” than I could have ever imagined, and I am not just talking about hook-up sex and cocaine. I’m talking about video game competition and a gaming culture, complete with its own language and customs, that was entirely different from the one that I knew and grew up in.
Since there’s 14-pages to this vintage Oui article, let me just start from the top.
What’s in The Article?
The article opens with a description of two young women, Joanne and Marie, playing Pac-Man and drinking Heineken (oh, how 80s) while seated at a cocktail-style unit in Manhattan’s infamous single’s bar, Tuesday’s West, the barcade where celebrities like Paul McCartney and Paul Simon mingled with porn stars and models for hire on a regular basis. Since Oui Magazine’s office was just around the corner, many of the prospective “new talents” for the spicier pages of the mag were found either on the dance floor, in the arcade, or working as a server there. So, it’s possible that both Joanne and Marie were the names of real women.
According to the article, “a twerp” in a “blue three-piece leisure suit”, who closely fits the description of Sierra’s video game character Leisure Suit Larry, walks up to the cocktail table and starts hitting on Joanne, interrupting her concentration and causing her to lose a man just before she reaches 20,000 points. Joanne tells the guy to shut up, ignores him and keeps on playing. “The twerp” continues to hit on her, though, and after a few moments, Joanne has had enough. She stands up and yells at the guy, “Look…I just want to play this game! Will you leave me alone? I’m into the game now. I don’t want to go home with you. I just wanna play this game! That’s it. Fuck off!”
To read this from a magazine published in 1982 is a moment of historical importance for me. This is the first time, out of the thousands of vintage articles and notes that I’ve read over the decades, where a female video game player is depicted as 1) being a serious gamer and 2) having a competitive attitude. Gaming history prior to 1994 rarely portrayed a female gamer as anything but “an ornament”; a girl who was willing to give up her turn on a game to hold her boyfriend’s coat while he made history; or as a sultry, scantily clad bimbo who draped her body all over an arcade game so you had to peel her off of it like duct tape first in order to play it. So, this was a refreshing paragraph to read. Rare and illuminating. Truth is, tough-talking and seriously competitive arcade girls like “Joanne” were far more common in 1982 than “ornaments” and “bimbos”. Just as women who game are now, women were the same back then.
So, right off the bat the article impressed me with its sense of reality. In fact, the entire article impressed me. The photos. The layout. The content, and that includes the weird stuff, too. I mean, sometimes cringe is a bonus depending on what it is, right?
Inside this 14-page extravaganza of “Pac-Mannery”, I found:
* An extensive strategy guide: Includes the sound warning to, “Never play women either for money or sexual favors; they tend to be superior to men at the game.” Good to know, Chad.
* Sex and Pac-Man: The bizarre and allegedly true tale of porn star and Tuesday’s West regular, Bunny Hatton, who challenged a group of men to play her on Pac-Man for “a minute of head” for every thousand-points over her high score. One night, a Oui staffer beat her high score by 15,000 points, which earned himself 15-minutes of oral sex. Whether she was giving or receiving is unclear.
* Lots of “Split-Screen” Talk: Ah, this was cool to read. According to Oui, some split-screens, only achieved when the player finishes the game, were achieved by women. Yes, and contrary to what has been published as “fact” for over 25-years, by early 1981, and only after a mere 6 months after the US release of Pac-Man, the “split-screen” had been reached numerous times, and by numerous people. So, the guy from that old 80s scoreboard, you know, the one who has made a carnival career out of pretending he was the first to achieve every milepost possible on Pac-Man? Yeah, you know, the guy who attempts to sue anyone who says he didn’t? Yeah…him. Well, here’s more evidence that supports that people dominated Pac-Man long before he and his life-long buddy re-started a long defunct gaming scoreboard clearing house in 1997 just so he could say he did.
* Celebrity Pac-Man Owners: Rick James (Super Freak), Rick Springfield (Jesse’s Girl), The Rolling Stones (Rock and Roll legends) and Barbara Mandrell (County singer) are mentioned. We also learn that Cher had a clause in her performance contract with Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to always have a Pac-Man machine in her dressing room. Other celebs listed in the article as having “a Pac-Man addiction” are John Belushi (Saturday Night Live) and Queen (English rock band) who had a machine on their tour bus.
* Celebrity Competitors: Apparently comedians Rip Taylor and Joan Rivers, competed in The Atari Celebrity Pac-Man Olympics, held on April 1, 1982. Also, famed musicians and studio legends Herbie Hancock and Nile Rogers trained for competition by playing doubles at Roger’s house before competing in The Pac-Man National Tournament in 1982.
* Marathon Competitors: Not only mentioned but also documented in this issue, are the feats of Ken Uston, Raymond Chan and a woman named Shyrle De Haven, who demonstrated just how poorly she played the game by using 200 quarters over a 28-hour non-stop marathon on Pac-Man at a Dairy Queen in Davey, CA in 1982. She only scored 162,950 points. Ouch. Her score sucks. But 28-hrs is quite admirable.
* Trade Talk on Test Sites: Just as a rule, I take accounts on history from voices within the industry with a grain of salt. This is mostly because they tend to know gaming history as the “history of a product” and not as the history of something that affected public consciousness. I don’t trust their angle. But according to Larry Burke, Director of Sales of Bally Midway, in the Summer of 1980, Bally Midway received samples of Pac-Man from Tokyo, and by October the first test game was put on route in Chicago, Illinois. The article does not state where, but I believe it was either at Mother’s in Prospect Heights or at Silver Sue’s. Both were well-known test sites. The first test fields found the American public indifferent to the game. Then, in 1981, and probably because Pac-Man found its way into the adult bar scene and the suburban malls first rather than the heavy space shooter urban arcades it had already been determined it would fail in, it exploded in popularity. By 1982, according to Larry Burke’s sale figures, 68,000 full-size upright cabinets were made, 7,500 cabaret models (known as “mini mytes”), and 21,100 cocktails cabinets were operating in Canada and the USA. Pacmania had arrived.
Bootleg versions of Pac-Man were “Little Gobbler”, “Puc-One” and “Mazeman”, just to name a few.
* Interesting Novelty Info: Atlantic City’s International Hotel Casino had a 7ft wide projection screen installed for visitors to play Pac-Man on in 1982.
* Pac-Man Fever Trivia: The ‘Pac-Man sounds” on Buckner and Garcia’s hit novelty song “Pac-Man Fever” were recorded at a real arcade in Atlanta, GA called, The Den. According to Oui, if you listen carefully, you can hear a man ordering a pastrami sandwich in the background noise.
There is a MASSIVE GLOSSARY of Pac-Man and arcade terminology in this issue that uses many terms carried over from the Foosball craze (1974-1979) which preceded the North American Video Craze (1978-1984). Prior to the release of Space Invaders, Foosball was the number one multi-million dollar competitive gaming pastime in the USA until arcade video games put out the fire. What’s unusual is, many of these Pac-Man terms did not manifest in the youth or teen sector, but are instead the language of the barcade adult scène who were most likely raised on Foosball. In lieu of typing all of it out, here are some screen shots. Grainy tone and watery typeface is natural to the original magazine.
Well, watch out for The Technicolor Mafia.
Until next time…may all your quarters be red ones.