- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Yes, gamers, you’ve got it good nowadays.

You’ve got Xboxes displaying games on high-definition TV screens. There are always hot new games to download onto your smartphones.

Looking at all those advances in video game technology, it’s hard to believe that guiding a faceless, yellow, circular character through mazes filled with dots could be mesmerizing.

Yes, Pac-Man pales in comparison to today’s games. The graphics were a little fuzzy. There were only four or five basic sounds.

And, like many middle-aged entertainers, he’s still trying to stay relevant with the younger crowd, the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/1STaX1K ) reported.

Released on May 22, 1980, Pac-Man, one of the most popular and well-known video games of all time, just turned 35 years old. His female counterpart, Ms. Pac-Man, is 34.

“It doesn’t really seem like that long ago,” said Kelli Tuttle, who spent hours feeding quarters into the Pac-Man machine with her high school sweetheart, Joe, at the Food 4 Less grocery store, now home to Knova’s Carpets, in the Hillcrest Shopping Center.

“We used to get a roll of quarters. I lived on Orleans Avenue, and then we’d walk from Orleans Avenue to Food 4 Less,” Kelli said. “We loved to go and have competitions.”

While playing, Kelli would grip the joystick so hard that the rings she wore would give her fingers blisters, so she’d usually give her rings to Joe while she played.

So on her birthday in 1982, Joe had an engagement ring in his pocket, planning to give it to Kelli when she was done playing and asked for her rings.

Except the plan didn’t quite work out.

“The one time, she never took her rings off,” Joe said.

Joe adjusted on the fly, giving Kelli the ring a little later on the escalator in Younkers at Southern Hills Mall.

They’ve been married 32 years.

Though they were dating before Pac-Man came on the scene, the arcade character provided a lot of bonding time and cheap entertainment for the young couple. Years later, Joe bought Kelli a Ms. Pac-Man cocktail-table video game as a wedding anniversary present.

“It was perfect,” Joe said.

A sentiment shared by many people in their 40s and 50s.

We remember Pac-Man in his prime, when his image was slapped on all sorts of merchandize. He was a breakfast cereal and a Saturday morning cartoon. He even spawned a now cringe-inducing Top 10 song, “Pac-Man Fever” by Buckner & Garcia.

Then along came newer video games with cooler graphics, cheaper and better in-home gaming systems. Arcade video games began to struggle for survival. They still do.

“All video play is down with the availability of play on your phone and on TV,” said Bob Lund, owner of River City Amusement Co. in Sioux City, which leases and shares video games and pool tables to businesses throughout Siouxland.

The Pac-Man name still resonates, though.

Lund said customers still ask for Pac-Man machines or arcade consoles that include Pac-Man along with other popular ‘80s games, but those games often sit, ignored and rarely played.

More popular are requests to buy the games. Lund sells a number of arcade consoles with Pac-Man and other video games loaded on them.

“It’s a nostalgia piece now,” Lund said.

Kelli and Joe Tuttle still challenge each other from time to time to a game of Ms. Pac-Man in their basement.

It brings back fun memories, Kelli said.

After all, Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man have been a part of the Tuttles’ marriage from the beginning.

Here’s hoping Pac-Man’s honeymoon with older gamers never ends.

___

Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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