Google's Pac-Man AR Demo Should Be a Real Game

Managing Editor
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SAN FRANCISCO — Google's bold new Stadia game-streaming service stole the show at GDC 2019, but it wasn't the only cool thing Google had cooking up at the event. Tucked between the many tech demos at Google's colorful Moscone Center booth was Pac in Town: an augmented-reality version of Pac-Man that you play by navigating a virtual maze in a real-life space.

As I entered Google's small, squared play space, myself and two other players were given plastic Pac-Man heads that were attached to smartphones. Once the game got started, the smartphone's screen gave me an augmented reality view that layered power pellets and ghosts on top of the real world floor. From there, the three of us frantically walked around, trying to scoop up pellets and avoid getting knocked out by ghosts.

Interestingly, every time I got knocked out of the game, a Google rep was able to bring me back in by giving me a real-life high-five. I'm not sure what kind of sensor was triggering this, but it sure felt cool.

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What was even cooler was that Google displayed all of the action on a big screen for attendees, where you could see real people chasing virtual Pac-Man ghosts in one seamless view.

Google's Pac-Man AR demo had a few quirks — for example, I would have much rather have experienced it while wearing an AR headset than by having to carry around a giant Pac-Man ball in order to play. The on-site Google reps told me that Pac in Town is strictly a tech demo for now, but if it ever were to become a legitimate game, I'd certainly look forward to spending a few afternoons making a fool of myself (and my friends) while chasing ghosts.

Be sure to check out our GDC 2019 hub page for all of the latest gaming news and hands-on impressions straight out of San Francisco.