Five Things We Learned From Pac-Man

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

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Pac-Man: a little yellow poltergeist magnet.
Pac-Man is one of the founding fathers of gaming.  He is to the arcade experience what Benjamin Franklin is to the American experiment, except Pac-Man ate more cherries in his day and Ben Franklin loved hookers more.  At the time when it was released, most games were about either low-res paddle sport simulation or killing aliens -- Pac-Man invented an entirely new genre, one based around pellet consumption in a haunted maze.

That's all well and good, but what did it teach us?  We learned a lot of stuff from Ben Franklin, like the fact that if you're going to fly a kite, it's cooler to attach something metallic to the string and do it in a thunderstorm.  Did Pac-Man teach us anything remotely as important?

1.) Waste not, want not.

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Pac-Man doesn't waste perfectly good pellets just because they're in a labyrinth full of hell-spawn.

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ou would think that Pac-Man might be inclined to maybe go to his house and order a pizza.  He's obviously hungry.  He's aware of the fact that several ghosts are trying to disintegrate him.  Why not sprinkle holy water around the edges of your living room, call Domino's and watch some Dexter, Pac-Man?

But the thing about Pac-Man is, he hates waste.  Even with four malicious apparitions hot on his trail, Pac-Man can't stand the thought of all those delicious pellets going to waste, even if they are scattered around a maze.  So he won't leave each level, no matter how nauseatingly packed his little yellow stomach is with pellets, until he eats every last god damn one.

While it puts him in perpetual danger, it's a noble instinct.  Don't let resources go to waste; if you do, then the ghosts win.

 

2.) Be wary of the supernatural.

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When you die, if you have sinned venially but not mortally, you become one of these.

Our little round protagonist has done something awful to upset the next world.  Perhaps Pac-Man bought a copy of the Necronomicon and accidentally recalled the colorful ghosts of four serial murderers to earth.  Or maybe, in a shocking act of disrespect, Pac-Man built his patented maze / pellet shop on top of Indian burial grounds.  Whatever the reason, the beings that inhabit the next world seem pretty pissed.

So even if you're not superstitious, why tempt fate?  Better safe than sorry.

 

3.) Don't do too much hard work without taking a breather.

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This cutscene furthers the plot by depicting a comically large Pac-Man.

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cording to our sources, Pac-Man was the first game to feature cutscenes -- in the form of the brief, unplayable moments between levels where Pac-Man and the ghosts have awkward interactions.  It pioneered the use of small breaks between sections of intense, stressful gameplay that would later grow into epic, cinematic lumps of exposition.  While the cutscene is sometimes criticized as a convention for taking players out of the experience of gaming, one has to admit that sometimes they can be quite relieving, especially if you've been frantically running from ghosts for the past twenty minutes.

 

4.) You can face your fears.

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Say what you will about Pac-Man.  Sure, he's kind of a weird little guy.  His complexion indicates that perhaps he has an untreated jaundice infection.  And he clearly has some type of eating disorder.

But we have to give it to him, the little yellow ball has balls.

How many people can say that with a little nutritional supplement, they overcame their biggest fear and faced the menace that was haunting them?  And won?  Not many.  But Pac-Man, after a little encouragement from a bigger-than-usual pellet, does that exactly -- he confronts the demons who are harassing him and sends them back to the little box from whence they came.  It's a cathartic, proud moment, that gives us all hope that if we eat right and stay focused, we can all reclaim the maze of our lives from the ghosts of unhappiness.

Of course, the ghosts are only banished back to the center box momentarily, and so Pac-Man is ostensibly locked in an eternal, Sisyphus-like struggle with his demons.  But why focus on that?

 

5.) When you see true love, recognize it.

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If you are a heterosexual male small yellow sphere who eats pellets and hates fucking ghosts, and you meet a female (see the bow?) small yellow sphere who eats pellets and also has a major problem with ghosts, ask her out for the love of god.  Most potential girlfriends are going to be turned off by your Humpty-Dumpty physique and the fact that all you ever talk about are how shitty ghosts are and how awesome it is to eat pellets.

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