How to DIY and play a life size game of HUMAN glow in the dark PacMan!

Ever wished you could play a classic arcade game like PacMan, only life-size, with actual people? At Simply Sparkles, we love to make parties extra fun, and we’re always up for a creative challenge, like a real-life version of a game like PacMan which people can actually play. Then we like to level it up, with our super cool UV blacklight so it really has an arcade game vibe. Bonus points if we can do most of it with normal household supplies, something recycled, and on a budget!

So, when my son asked for a ‘computer games party without computers’ we rose to the challenge and as PacMan was back in thanks to the movie Game On … the rest was history! We also made a string laser maze in the garden, and had Plants vs Zombies attached to balloons that they could shoot with nerf guns. It was awesome.

Suitable for ages 5 and up, you can play this as a cool party game or even in your own household if you have a minimum of 3 people: one PacMan, at least one ghost and a person to referee and change the music (or do human sound effects, if you are my husband!). The maximum number of people depends a lot on the size space you are dealing with and the number of kids you can handle, as it gets fairly exciting and chaotic at times. We found for younger kids in a living room situation, 3 ghosts and 1 PacMan was the upper limit, so we made sure to allocate turns and had the spectators on the sofa really giggling as they waited for their turn. This can be almost as fun to watch as it is to play!

Supplies for making a life-size, human glow in the dark PacMan game:

  • A4 neon / fluorescent coloured card: 2 x yellow, 2 x pink, 2 x orange, 2 x blue/green
  • A4 white paper
  • A5 black paper or round black stickers (about 1cm or 1/2 inch wide) – or a black marker but I think cutouts looked nice
  • string or wool
  • hole punch
  • a side plate (to mark the top of the ghost shape and the PacMan)
  • an egg cup or small glass, like a sherry/highball glass (to mark the eye shapes)
  • a small circle stencil or other round object (approx 1cm or 1inch wide) to mark the eye pupils
  • scissors
  • a pencil
  • masking tape (the kind used to mask things while painting- not duct tape) approximately 2cm / 1 inch wide (white or ordinary cream-coloured painters tape – it needs to glow in the dark and thankfully the standard-coloured one does). You’ll probably need the whole roll or even more, so keep it inexpensive, and it mustn’t mess up your floors. We have hardwood floors and masking tape was fine. I have no idea what works on carpets, sorry.
  • plastic bottle tops like milk bottle tops – as many as you can get. We save ours for up-cycling and recycling projects so we had a big jar full. If you don’t have time to save them up, ask your friends, or you can use paper dots. Bright coloured lids that will glow are helpful, or you can paint them or stick on inexpensive office supply dot stickers in neon – those guys glow! People also use coloured ball-pool balls, but the less they can fly around the room if knocked, the better! You need lots in one colour and then a handful in another colour to be the ones to tell PacMan he can hunt the ghosts.
  • PacMan sound-effect music and a device to play it on, or a willing beep-beeper person who understands the game and has a good sense of fun.
  • Some pieces of fluro paper or painted jar lids for the ‘turn around’ dots – about 4-5, depending on the size of your space.
  • A clean floor you can put tape on – tiles, wood, cement all work well.
  • a bag or other container (a small bucket works well) for PacMan to collect his/her dots with

OPTIONAL EXTRAS to LEVEL UP

  • UV blacklight to make it all glow in the dark – we recommend the package Simply Sparkles hires out, which has two good par can flood lights and one bar light. This way you can have the light coming from different angles in the room and it makes everything really pop.
  • larger dots (paper ones or jam jar lids) with printed out pictures of cherries and other bonus points items from the PacMan game. Very big dots (paper plates work well) for PacMan to be able to chase the ghosts back.
  • Score board: For older kids and adults, you can up the challenge and keep a score of how many of the dots and the bonus items each PacMan gets on their turn, and keep score on a chalk board. This works best if there aren’t so many players that it will take ALL day to each have a turn, but you could do it on a team basis. Really don’t do this with children under 10 as they truly have enough fun just playing it and randomly collecting the dots, and they tend to be unhappy with competitions at parties and start arguing.

Making the PacMan characters

If look at the first photo on this blog, you’ll get an idea of what you’re after. Use your plate to make a circle in the yellow card for PacMan, cut it out, then measure out a cake slice piece to cut out for the mouth. There are loads of free PacMan colouring in pages on the net you can use as a template if you aren’t keen on drawing your own. Try this French blog for making PacMan and ghost cushions – she has a really great template for both. Stick a small black dot on for the eye and you have PacMan’s dear familiar face.

Use the same plate to draw the top half of a circle for the top of the ghosts, then use a ruler to draw side lines, and make a wavy line at the bottom (You could free-hand. I happened to have a wavy line stencil ruler, but you could make a quick template from card to keep it uniform and neat – use your sherry or highball glass rim to mark the curves of your wavy line). The ghost eyes are a different size and type from Pacman’s. Use your highball/ sherry glass to measure the white circles, then cut them out, and check the position before sticking them on. Cut the black pupils (or draw them on with a black marker or use black stickers). Try varying their direction so they look expressive and interesting like the ones in the photo.

Once you have two ghosts in each colour, and two PacMan characters, you need to put them back to back and punch holes on the sides, nearish to the top. You then thread string/ wool through the holes, to make a little harness to hold the faces on the chest and back of each player. You can adjust the length by trying it out on your child/ person of a suitable size who will be playing, then tie and cut off loose ends. You can get the idea here – the arrow shows you where the string holes are, as the glow light makes it a bit hard to see:

where to place the strings on your ghost/pacman

TIP: if you plan to play this on more than one occasion or with lots of kids and you want it to really last, you can laminate each piece and use a hold punch and metal hole-liners if you have the tool to put them in with. The plain card with holes last very well for one party’s set of games, but help/ remind children to put them on and take them off gently as they won’t survive overly rough treatment.

How to set up a human PacMan game floor layout

If you are more comfortable with knowing exactly how this will turn out, then you can measure your floor, get some pictures of a PacMan game screen off the internet, and plan the whole thing with exact measurements, factoring in the width of your masking tape. If this makes you happy and you have a lot of time, have fun! If you are shorter on patience and time, like me, read on…

What I did: Got a pic of a PacMan game on my laptop to refer to. Started in the middle of the room with the rectangle big enough for one person to stand and turn in, with an opening big enough for two feet right next to each other, plus a bit extra. I then taped out pathways fairy intuitively in concentric rectangles around the original one, occasionally referring to my laptop screen for inspiration to keep things varied – a couple of awkward twists and turns and dead ends add to the fun.

It is super important for game play that there is not an easy, direct path straight from the middle rectangle to the outside opening. Hopefully referring to your chosen image of a typical PacMan screen will help you see this.

You can see the result in the picture above. Notice the ordinary-coloured masking tape is glowing a nice purple under the black light UV.

To finish off, enclose the whole lot in a big rectangle with an opening that connects to one of the paths. The best part is, apart from wasting a bit of tape, if something goes wrong with your design, it’s easy enough to pull up the tape and reapply it or else start that bit over – just keep stepping back to look at the big picture and checking your paceman screen/ image for reference.

You can do this the day before your party – if your tape works, it can stay down for a day or even two. Just remember to use masking tape and not duct tape and your floor should be fine. If you’re not sure with your specific type of flooring, please check in a hidden spot.

TIP: for teenagers or adults, check the pathways are wide enough for bigger sized feet to move through, though making fairly tight turns is part of the fun!

Getting ready to play human PacMan!

Once you’ve done your pathway, and you’re close to the start time, place your dots (bottle tops or whatever you are using) around your maze. It’s great if you can put them fairly evenly spaced around the whole thing, as it looks like the real game and makes it challenging, but for younger kids, or if you are just short of dots, you can spread them out a bit more.

Decide ahead of time how teams will work, especially if you have lots of kids or a tricky number. You can adapt. Best case scenario, we found, was 3 ghosts to one PacMan, but you could mess about with the ratio depending on your space and the age of the players, etc.

  1. Give each ghost their ghost ‘harness’ to put on, so they have one ghost picture on their chest/tummy and one on their back. Do the same for the first PacMan.
  2. Give PacMan the container or bag which he or she is going to put their dots in.
  3. Get your sound or sound-effects person ready to go.
  4. Switch on your UV blacklights.
  5. Close your curtains and switch off extra lights.
  6. Explain the rules to your players and demonstrate the walking technique.

How to move in a game of human, life- sized PacMan

You can’t walk in a normal way like the kid in the front of this game (see picture below). An important rule is that you have to keep your knees together at all times and shuffle, one foot in front of the other, as if your legs started at your knees. This slows everyone down a bit, keeping up the challenge level, and makes you move a bit like you are in a pixelated old school arcade game. It also makes it more silly and fun.

From a safety perspective, you also don’t want people attempting to run in a small space with lots of tight turns.

Alternatives are tying older people’s knees together (not recommended for kids – they just need lots of reminding when things heat up). Use duct tape or soft, wide ribbon or scarves that won’t cut. Tie gently, not too tight. If your floor is not too hard and people are wearing long trousers, they can crawl, but then you need a bigger maze and lots of room for wider paths. You can get some people to hop with both feet, or make ghosts hop with one foot and PacMan with two. The hopping and shuffling and crawling have to happen without shooting the dots everywhere – though some of this is inevitable – a demonstration can be helpful.

How to play a game of human, life-size PacMan

  1. PacMan stands outside the maze, next to the opening, holding his/her bag or container.
  2. The ghosts are placed in the middle rectangle, all together in a row.
  3. Press play or start making slow beep-bop PacMan noises while everyone starts to move. PacMan has to pick up as many of the dots as he/she can while avoiding capture by the ghosts.
  4. The ghosts can move in a random way, as in the game, or try to head straight for PacMan to catch him. It helps to explain to the players that all the ghosts going after PacMan at once isn’t the most fun strategy as they all just end up in a row. Spreading out makes it more fun AND narrows down PacMan’s options for escape.
  5. If PacMan reaches one of the BIG/ WHITE dots (e.g. paper plates)Call out ‘GHOST HUNT!” and the chase reverses (use a different soundtrack here – faster bee-bops or a wazoo or something) and PacMan has a chance to capture the ghosts. This tends to be really fun and chaotic as the ghosts are suddenly the ones being hunted and have to hobble for their lives! The person doing the sound effects can use their judgement as to how long to let this go on before the tide turns against PacMan again, though the older the teens/adults, the more important it is for this to be on a proper timer of some kind for fairness. The little kids are usually so into it they don’t notice the time exactly and the adult running the game can tweak it a bit to keep things happy and running well.
  6. PacMan can not pick up any dots while chasing the ghosts.
  7. Captured ghosts have to return to their home base rectangle in the middle and wait to start over.
  8. As soon as time is up, call out ‘PACMAN HUNT!’ and go back to your original, slower beep-bop soundtrack. PacMan can return to picking up dots and bonus points. The ghosts return to chasing PacMan.
  9. If PacMan gets captured by a ghost, he or she loses a life and the game resets, with the ghosts returning to the middle while PacMan returns to the outer opening of the maze. 3 lives works well.
  10. At the end of PacMan’s third life, if you are keeping score, you count the number of tokens he/she has managed to collect and write it down next to that player or team’s name. Then while everyone is changing places, selecting a new PacMan and ghosts to have a go, replace all the tokens quickly. Players can help to make this quick. It’s not as painful as it sounds, as very few players pick up most of the dots because they are also trying to escape the ghosts. With very young kids, having something to do in between rounds, like a quick snack or drinks break, can buy you time.
  11. SCORING: If you are keeping score, and not just playing for fun with little kids, then you have to count the number of dots collected by PacMan at the end of his/her 3 lives, and keep track of the number of ghosts captured in their turn. Suggested simple scoring: 1 point: common colour dots, 2 points for bonus colour dots (e.g. cherries in the original game) and 5 points for ghosts. Write scores on a piece of paper or score board. Simply Sparkles have a great chalk board and chalk markers you can use (bonus that chalk markers glow under UV too!)

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to look at our other posts on glow in the dark parties and lawn games:

Glow in the dark party ideas

Grown up glow party ideas

How to play Kubb or viking chess

Party ideas for 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays and beyond

Every culture has its own way of celebrating birthday milestones, particularly the decades past 40. But things are always changing – we now see men and women well over 60 jogging around the neighbourhood in preparation for a major marathon, or taking part in mountain biking events, something that was rare indeed when I was a kid. Gone are the days of lavender rinses and curlers and grannies knitting doilies while grandpa smokes a pipe!

These guys were young in the swinging 60s and 70s, and can still shake a leg- so why stick to high tea and cake smashes as the best party themes? How about a super memorable dance party? I know my mother still enjoys a good dance and she’s hitting 70 next year. Hey, with a good knee replacement (or two), who knows how long my generation will one day be lip syncing to Queen and The Bangles?

There could be such a thing as going too far, of course. I attended a friend’s grandmother’s 80th in Dover, England, 20 years ago. It was a very large gathering at a local hall, and someone had booked a male stripper. There was a moment when this feisty but short-sighted lady in her wheelchair was enthusiastically rubbing baby oil on his back while he was clad in nothing but a red thong. This image is maddeningly difficult to erase from my mind 2 decades later!! I wouldn’t recommend this, but it did get me thinking!

Imagine my delight when I got a WhatsApp from a customer a short while ago, wanting to hire Simply Sparkles disco lights for her dad’s Sixtieth 60s disco party! Now that’s more like it!

A classic disco ball, a few coloured lights that move to the beat and some fairy lights to add extra glamour and fun, and there you go! Plug in your MP3 player or CD player or get out your Spotify playlists and speakers (you can ask the youngest grandkids to sort this out for you), and you’re good to go for a family-and-friends party in your home.

For a larger party with prepared speeches and toasts ,and perhaps someone singing a special serenade to your beloved uncle, gorgeous wife, dapper dad or fabulous granny, hire some simple to use speakers for better dance sound and a good quality microphone. Our speakers can handle anything from plugging into an electronic record-player outlet so you can spin that vinyl, to seamless bluetooth connection to any smart device, or USB input. We also offer a two cordless microphones which can be used with your smart TV or a tablet app for some first class insert-retro-decade-here karaoke fun!

dancing with grandma!

My stepdad turns out to have been quite the singer back in his youth. For his 80th birthday party, he not only had very clear ideas on what music he wanted from the 50s-70s, he also asked for the mics to be able to sing a song to my mum: Frank Sinatra’s ‘You make me feel so young’. We found the backing track on Youtube and set him up with the speakers, and it was a really special moment. Check out our post on setting up karaoke or singing with our blue tooth speakers and mic.

Get all the generations into some fun dance party games and you’ll all be laughing and dancing the night away as you celebrate that wonderful older person in your life. Remember to have lots of comfy chairs and plenty of great snacks and drinks to keep everyone going. Just don’t be too surprised if its the golden oldies who get up to the most mischief reliving their glory days on the dance floor!

Glow in the dark party ideas

Glow in the dark parties, using black light UV lighting and neon or white clothes and decor, are all the rage with teens, pre-teens (or tweens) and younger kids as well as adults. My daughter had a glow in the dark dance party for her 12th birthday and we had such fun with the black lights we’ve added to our Simply Sparkles packages. We’ve all been going a little nuts researching things, trying out paint supplies and running around the house plugging in the black light to see what gets that glow in the dark wow factor!

You can have SO much fun with this as a basic theme all on its own, as part of a dance party (especially an 80s disco), or by using elements to jazz up your decorations for a futuristic or retro space / computer game (e.g. pac man) or fantasy parties like unicorn or fairy themes.

All you need is some imagination, a good strong black light (it’s which is a particular type of UV light spectrum that works much better than straight UV) some cool neon and white decorations, and UV, glow in the dark, neon or black light body paint or craft paint. A strobe light can add an extra touch of fun.

general tips

You’d be surprised what can glow in the dark, including tonic water (with quinine), so you can make the coolest glow in the dark cocktails for adults (GNT, you beauty!), or alcohol free mixes for kids, and even glow in the dark jelly (tip: replace the cold water in the recipe with tonic water and use litchi flavoured jelly from Pick ‘n’ Pay, as it is a pale white)! This only shines if close to a UV light and it does change the taste a little, so its best in small quantities. It is the quinine in tonic water that makes it glow, so check that this is one of the ingredients. When you add tonic water to the hot water jelly mixture, it tends to froth up quite a bit. Let the warm mixture cool a bit or at least make sure you are using a big container with room for the foam. The foam does settle down after a bit so you get a normal, smooth jelly.

Tonic water ice cubes glow amazingly well, and make an interesting addition to drinks.

Things we have at home that glow in the dark under the Simply Sparkles black light UV: a white plate, Bastion glow paint, black light glow face paint, highlighter and Sharpie, tonic water. Cool, hey?

For a list of interesting things that glow in the dark (with pictures), check out this website: science notes.

Local suppliers and resources in South Africa:

PAINT

You can buy black light and neon body and craft paints at most PNA shops and other craft/ art supply stores like the Crafters’ Inn in Somerset West, or at a local Chinese shop that stocks party costumes, like China Town at Somerset Mall. If you are ordering larger quantities, it is worth checking out a local direct supplier like Bastion paint. Don’t forget ordinary neon felt tip pens and highlighters will also make fantastic signs and other decor!

There are four kinds of paint that work well. Most are available as either body (or face) paint OR craft paint. You can’t mix and match because of the chemicals, so check the label carefully.

  1. straight neon or white paint (which are bright even without the light so can be used again for sports events, etc.
  2. glow in the dark or UV glow paint
  3. Black light glow paint which is amazing and gives you a bigger colour range, including blue.
  4. Invisible UV paint (also useful to secretly mark expensive items in your home or bicycles) which only shows under UV light (I’ve been able to find this at PNA and online at Bastion Paint

DECORATIONS

Neon slinky springs (to hang down in spirals), reusable paper lanterns (white is good, paint them if you can’t find neon colours, or stick neon stickers on them), bunting and glow sticks are all usually available at your nearest Crazy Store or China Town.

We try to consider the environment (as well as our budget) and buy more of the kind of decor we can reuse or recycle (like the paper lanterns and bunting, which come out in various guises at lots of different parties) and fewer of the items that can’t be reused or recycled (like glow sticks or balloons). Remember some things you already own will seriously ‘pop’ in the UV light, like white serving platters and white picture frames, and anything neon like a frisbee or hula hoop, or neon post-it notes. When in doubt, buy cheap neon dot or star stickers and put them on all kinds of things. Our paper lanterns for a recent party didn’t glow much, so we just added the dot stickers and they looked amazing, with or without the lights.

Locally, CAB foods sell individual balloons (to avoid waste getting more than you need) in lots of neon colours that work well with our lights, like violet, blue, green, pink and yellow. They need to be fairly close to the light (in the same half of a larger room) to really zing., and the colour description must say ‘neon’ not just ‘bright’ or ‘electric’. Here’s what they look like deflated, in the day time and with the black light in a darkened room (the spotty one was from a packet of balloons at the Crazy Store:

Glow in the dark tape can be bought online at takealot. So can lots of other glow in the dark pens, toys, craft paint and glow sticks. They also stock glow in the dark pebbles in colour or green – or order some glow in the dark paint and paint garden pebbles. The glow in the dark paint needs to be ‘charged’ by daylight or lights in general and can fade with time. This doesn’t happen with the UV light – it gets supercharged and stays shiny, and a little paint goes much further under UV light. For instance, in the painting below, it glows without a UV light when the room is completely dark (it can’t be photographed), but even in the daytime you get a really cool glow if there is a proper UV light on it (and I can get a photo of it – yay!).

A painting I made on canvas for my son’s room with glow paint doubles up as Space party decor with a UV light

GAME PROPS

Game props can easily be made out of things you already have, with a few extra supplies like ordinary neon or white duct/ masking tape or glow in the dark tape from takealot. E.g. Bowling skittles made from plastic coke bottles filled with a little water, and wrapped in tape or painted to glow in the dark or tin cans decorated with the tape or white/neon dot stickers, and white tape used to mark the ‘bowling alley’.

You can use things you already have in unexpected ways, like any glow in the dark items from your kids’ bedrooms, or games like Twister – we just drew over our existing twister mat with matching highlighter colours. They don’t show up in ordinary light but look pretty cool in the UV light. Some laundry detergents glow in the dark, so experiment with that in your skittles etc. too! Office stationary supply shops (CNA, PNA. Waltons) have loads of large star burst shapes in neon colours (intended for sales displays) as well as neon cardboard for musical island (stand up musical chairs variation) games. Neon highlighters can be used as relay baton sticks for races, and so on.

Hot wheels car races or remote control robot races or obstacle courses are extra fun with a UV Light adding atmosphere. Glow stickers from crazy stores or Takealot will seriously pop!

OUTFITS

White clothes, shoes and accessories are a great place to start, as these automatically stand out in the UV light. If you don’t own anything and don’t want to spend a fortune, try Pep stores school sections for some inexpensive white vests, white canvas shoes and T shirts to play with. Pearls, some diamonds and of course white plastic jewellery will also stand out, so wear the bling that will have some zing!

Neon accessories from a costume shop are loads of fun. We found everything from fingerless fishnet gloves to tutus, flowery head bands and trouser braces in neon at the Somerset Mall China Town.

Money saving tip: buy a box of cheap white or neon office stickers in different shapes (dots and stars work best) and put them on your clothes, jewellery or shoes (the outfit will look fun and last the party).

Anything neon, including swimming costumes, hair bands, craft string, shoelaces and cheap plastic jewellery or beads and craft wire will seriously zing. An old 80s trick: cut tassel strips at the bottom of white/ neon T shirts and their sleeves and string on plastic neon beads before knotting. These swing and glow and add a lot of fun to a glow in the dark party outfit. They can be cheaply bought at craft supply shops. You can paint your own neon or glow in the dark clothes using fabric paint from PNA or craft supply shops like Crafters Inn. Takealot also sell neon fabric paint online.

All glow stick earrings, headbands and bracelets will also look extra special under UV. Check out a Crazy Store, PNA or Chinese shop, or order online from Takealot.

A word of warning from someone who has survived partying in the 1990s… white underwear will glow right through thinner clothing, so choose your outfit with that in mind (so at least it’s deliberate if it shows and glows!).

EDIBLE ITEMS

Apart from drinks with tonic water, you can try tonic water ice cubes. We’ve experimented with neon food colouring from CAB foods and found that really only the neon pink gel colouring truly glowed under our lights. The only other neon colour they had at the time of writing was neon green, but that looked like yellow-brown poo, which was NOT the look we were hoping for! White mints glow really well, and for some reason so does the plain background biscuit of Zoo buscuits, while the colourful bits and white animals (which we had hoped would glow), didn’t.

More reliable for your food, is serving it on white or neon plates. My daughter discovered a rather cool trick: neon yellow paper cups, decorated with yellow highlighter. The highlighter is invisible in normal light, but under the black light UV… it glows! She put a cute secret message on all the cups for her party, which the other kids really loved.

LIGHTS

Without a good black light UV light that spreads across a wide area, your glow in the dark party will not happen. The glow in the dark paints and decor items need to ‘charge’ with the light. Simply Sparkles offer a great black light UV for hire that can flood a large sitting room or garage with black light UV, and additional bulbs for other areas like a snack table. We have an additional two strobe lights for more UV effects. The main light can be set to move with your music’s beat, or to stay still during party games.

Check out some more great glow in the dark party ideas on Pinterest (seriously, how did we survive party planning without Pinterest???).

CONTACT Simply Sparkles party light hire if you would like to hire our glow in the dark lights, other disco lights and sound system. If you would like to commission a painting similar to the Space one or any other theme for your child’s bedroom or your theme party, please contact artist Marguerite MacRobert: margueritemacrobert@gmail.com