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May 29, 2006

DID I DO THAT? The Pac-Man Guitar - A Blogging Phenomenon Deconstructed

Last week, after posting the Katamari photos from the Bay to Breakers Race and reading the ensuing comments, I was marveling at the amazing speed at which certain stories take off aound the world, and it got me thinking about a particular viral blogging episode from last year, and what role I may have played in it.

So let's begin with a question:

Does anyone NOT remember reading about the Pac-Man guitar late last June?

Ah, no hands in the air. Okay, maybe a few hands. While it was popular, it was no Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa Kid, or Boom Goes The Dynamite. In any case, I'll continue...

After posting about the Pac-Man guitar on June 16 (more detail in timeline below), and suddenly seeing it posted everywhere six days later, I thought it was a strange coincidence. However, since GameFam had only been active for 2 days when I posted about it, I thought that the chances were pretty remote that the blogospheric wildfire had anything to do with lil' ol' me.

Well, turns out I was wrong. I did a little research, and what I found was that while I wasn't the first to ever write about the Pac-Man guitar (more detail near bottom of post), I've been able to trace the posts from mega-blogs like BoingBoing, Gizmodo, MAKE: Blog, Joystiq & Kotaku, viral sites like Milk and Cookies, and even MP3.com & Suicide Girls, all the way back to my little GameFam post, written on my 2nd day as a real live blogger.

To clarify, I do this not out of ego or self-aggrandizement...well, mostly not ;) , but mainly 'cuz I think it's pretty cool to have played a part in something I've only witnessed from the sidelines (or bandwagon-jumped myself) before now.

Ready? Here goes...

June 12, 2005
  • My wife and I take our 2 kids to the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago, mainly because Justin Roberts is performing there. In addition to the Roberts performance that is actually the point of this entire post, the kids enjoy free popsicles, and we also see a Vovlo made out of Lego. A good time was had by all.
June 15, 2005
June 16, 2005
  • I make my second-ever post on GameFam, writing about our experience at the Printers Row Book Fair, and specifically, focusing on the funky guitar that one of Justin Roberts' band members was using that day.

June 19, 2005
  • Robin, who was (and still is) a terrific blogging sherpa/sounding board, especially pre-GameFam-launch, posts about my starting GameFam in her blog, gewgaw, including a comment about and link to my post about the Pac-Man guitar.
June 21, 2005
June 22, 2005 (The Big Day)
  1. FFWD posts in the linklog (scroll down to June 22), linking back to Geek On Stun
  2. MAKE: Blog posts at 12:31 a.m., linking back to FFWD. Commenter trivini mentions that he "saw a dude playing one of those last week at a children's concert in Chicago. (We were just passing by)." The plot thickens.
  3. Boing Boing posts at 2:11 a.m., linking back to MAKE: Blog
So now that we've seen how the Pac-Man guitar made its way from GameFam to Boing Boing, all hell breaks loose, as the rest of the world jumps on ye olde bandwagon.

You get the idea. Many many other blogs and websites posted about the Pac-Man guitar at some point on June 22. Those were but a few of the notable ones.

June 23, 2005
June 24, 2005
After that, there are some more posts and links here and there, including the GamerDad message boards, and Suicide Girls, then the whole thing kind of peters out.

As I wrote early in the post, I wasn't the first to write about the Pac-Man guitar.

  • On January 27, 2005, five months before my post, Brad of Brad Sucks fame posted about the guitar. The post generated 2 comments, the last of which is on February 4, 2005. Between February 4th and my post on GameFam, nary a word about the guitar.
  • And waaaaaaay back on September 24, 2001, almost four years before my post, the guitar shows up in the Atari Age forums, but other than a few (7) comments the same day, nothing else happens.
Well, that's what I found out. Can anybody out there find an earlier reference to the guitar than September, 2001, or maybe a mid-June, 2005 post that beat me to the punch? Jes' lemme know if you do. In the meantime, anyone mind if I take the credit blame?



P.S. Any blogular bitterness that might be inferred (e.g. when I point out who did or didn't link to where they found the story), is completely unintentional. I had a lot of fun tracking this info down, and overall, I think the whole thing is pretty cool.


  • I suck at memes too I guess.

    By Blogger brad, at 8:56 PM  

  • Hey, Brad. Welcome. So did I miss anything between your post and mine? I searched for a while, but yours and the Atari Age post in '01 are the only 2. If I missed something on Google, Yahoo or MSN, please let me know. :)

    By Blogger Dan, at 9:01 PM  

  • It interesting but sometimes a bit dissapointing. I like to check my favourite blogs before work and at lunchtimes. However, sometimes a story I read somewhere months ago will crop up again. The warning sign is when they start with "This has been sitting in my inbox for ages" or "I know it's old but...".

    For me its like receiving an eagerly anticipated magazine or journal only to find I've read half the articles before.

    Good experiment though!

    By Blogger Cunzy11, at 4:59 AM  

  • Oh I have no idea, I can't remember where I found that link. I think I found it on my own though.

    I do remember seeing it make the rounds months later and thinking "hey I found that months ago" but I didn't pay much attention.

    By Blogger brad, at 6:10 AM  

  • cunzy11 - Is there any kind of post that's okay to write several months after the fact? Is it only the viral pop culture ones that disappoint, or all posts that are not as fresh as could be? (I see how this question can be read sarcastically, but I'm asking seriously)

    This was definitely a fun experiment. The best part was connecting the dots from GameFam--> gewgaw--> Geek on Stun--> FFWD--> MAKE--> Boing Boing. Actually, it was more like Boing Boing--> MAKE--> FFWD--> Geek on Stun--> gewgaw--> GameFam. It took me a while, and while I wouldn't call putting last piece together thrilling (cuz that would be kinda pathetic), it was pretty cool.


    Brad - Unless, for some reason, you were perusing the Atari Age forums from 3 and a half-years before your post, I think you most likely did find it on your own, and given that you're a guitar player, it makes all the sense in the world, unlike, say, a random blog or viral video site.

    By Blogger Dan, at 7:58 AM  

  • Hey Dan.
    To me, it is only the viral pop culture ones that really get up my nose. It's my own fault I guess, I go looking for things I like and its inevitable that blogs on the same subjects will link to each other.
    In terms of other 'types' of posts it is interesting if the blogger adds their own opinion/criticism or misunderstandings. At least that way debate is sparked and hopefully everyone can learn something from people who may be better informed. Then again chances are that debate has been held elsewhere in the forums or comments sections of other blogs.
    What dissapoints me is when the viral pop stuff is daisy chained around the blogs with short comments like "SOOOO CUTE" although what else would you say about a video about cats jumping into boxes?

    I can see how I am digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole here maybe I am destined to be annoyed by the very nature of social software. If only there was a way of omitting the redundancy without running the risk of missing an interesting development or post/

    By Blogger Cunzy11, at 8:45 AM  

  • No worries. It's not trolling if I asked first, though that was a nice little manifesto. :)

    To me, that kind of stuff is only mildly annoying, and really only when it's completely out of context for the blog/site that posts it. There are a lot of places that post random crap and when you're in the mood to check out the latest crap, it's good to know that they'll probably have a post about it (the crap).

    But when it's a complete non-sequitr, then it's a probably little much.

    By Blogger Dan, at 9:39 AM  

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