Pacman as game, Pacman as fun

Pac man created in 1980 by Namco is an arcade game created for the arcade. We must remember that the godbe2b1707f9cdddb6c7e56d510133829a2a4185a99d3a91d346fdc3122aed54eal of an arcade is to get money, games as a consumable. Something to be purchased.  When I play this game, I must acknowledge that I feel burnt out within the first ten minutes. I know that this game has given many people hours of enjoyment and can even hold up as a game today for many people. However as a person who has lived his life in service to games I can’t stand to waste my time. If I don’t have fun I can’t play a game. Fun is something That comes from playing a game. However for me this can’t be considered a game as defined by Caillois in his article “The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games”.

So, when I began to play the game I did not have to learn the rules or even take a second to figure out a game plan. Pacman is so ingrained in my mind even if I’ve only ever played it a few times, that I can just jump in and play. I quickly blast past the first level with little difficulty. However just as quickly I find myself dead about half way through the second level. This is a recurring pattern. I immediately begin to question myself as I have other things I could be doing. I understand that the score I received was limited in relation to other who have played but I have trouble finding competition within this game when I am on a reproduction and no high scores are visible in this computerized version. At the time, I can imagine the competitive and addict nature of high scores, knowing that those three letter names represent real people that perhaps you know could encourage repeated play. But for me I have no interest in the high score. So, to get some more time in with the game I began to make up rules for myself to increase my enjoyment. For example, I did a run that I would restart if I lost a life before I had finished the first level. I tried a few rounds where I wanted to eat all the ghosts at least once before I could finish the level. Injecting a new level of difficulty was not needed as I knew I failed often around the third level But I can’t be bothered to grind out more points.

To me this game is not fun because I am completing a task not playing a game. So, like Caillois puts forth in The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games. Pacman is for me missing crucial elements of a game and that makes it not fun. He lists six factors of a game being, Free, Separate, Uncertain, Unproductive, Governed by rules, and make-believe (128). The crucial missing elements being Free, and Uncertain. I played this game thinking I would e35632fe500000578-3646254-image-a-17_1466148392000njoy it, however after a few play sessions I began to see it more as a chore, part of an assignment rather than something to do on a whim. It became work quickly to my surprise and I soon found myself turning my brain off like one does with busy house work.

Another element missing for me was the game was not Uncertain I went into the game knowing the complexity and nuance of Pac-Man at the get go. So, when I play I fail only due to me being bad at the game. When I make it to another level I know the game will not change in a dramatic way and the goal remains the same. I can’t be surprised by such a well-known game. If I had the time I think the Uncertain nature of video games is what really makes me enjoy them replaying or revisiting a game I know leaves me board. I would consider this game to be one of Agon. Caillois has this term defined as a competitive game (130). Pac-man is a competition with one’s self or with others through a high score, there is no other goal than being better than oneself or others. “The point of the game is for each player to have his superiority in each area recognized.” (132) I don’t care for my own score and there is no interaction with a high score system either. So, I get no sense of superiority or recognition when I play this game. Lastly the game was not Unproductive. Now this aspect must be ignored for all following games because I am playing them with the goal of writing for a grade. I must push that aspect away from me because I can agree that an unproductive game is more fun. I would like to explore this further as I have played games for profit before and it made the game unfun. It was not a game at that point but a job. However for now this game, Pac-man was hardly a game and therefore was not fun.


Zimmerman, Eric, Katie Salen, and Roger Caillois. “The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games.” The Game Design Reader A Rules of Play Anthology, 2006, 122-55. Accessed January 28, 2017.


10 thoughts on “Pacman as game, Pacman as fun

  1. It was interesting to read you analysis. Though I did not play this game for the assignment I have played Pac Man before and enjoyed it. I always like to hear opposing views on opinions. The way you explained the game as just “completing tasks” made me think about Pac Man in a completely different way. When you think about it this way the fun really is taken away. I also like how you brought the fact that we are playing these games as homework into play. Yes, there is a certain pressure added to the game which has probably altered all of our gaming experiences.


    • I agree with this as well. I felt like I didn’t enjoy Super Meat Boy much because I was doing it as an assignment. Professional gamers can end up feeling this way too, especially if they play full time.


  2. “The crucial missing elements being Free, and Uncertain.” I am not sure Caillois meant these terms in respect to games to be utterly literal. I think what he meant is that YOU as a player have the FREEDOM to make choices in game given the rules. The outcomes are also uncertain in pac-man because the ghost’s movements are randomly generated (as far as I know). Furthermore, I cannot think of a game, even the most high level highly rated RPG, that leaves the player utterly free. Confines still exist and are a part of gaming environments.


  3. You’re working through some tough concepts, so that’s good: work, play, fun, game, etc. However, you need to work on your writing for clarity. Really try to work on structure and editing. Paragraphs and such. Also, linked sentences. You jump around a lot here. Yes, colloquial writing can be good, but only if it leads the reader through. Oh, and It’s not ‘one’ article, but multiple sections of his book. The way Caillois’ writings are listed is as separate: “The Definition of Play” and “The Classification of Games.” Not together, or in any way linked. They are related, but different. Similarly, game and fun are not necessarily linked, but you bounce back and forth here. Basically, you have blog #1 and blog #2 both here lumped together, and not teased apart. I suggest you really follow your last about work and productivity though as it is a way out of the jumble.


  4. You talk about the game as nothing more than completing a task. This makes it unfun, but is that not the point of video games? To me the fun is in completing the task


  5. Never really knew of someone not having fun while playing Pac-man. We all have that phase where its at least fun at the beginning but then we might get tired of it over time but never just straight up bored of the game. It is like in the words of Koster where “fun arises from mastery”. Most games have a goal at hand, and completing a task is another one of Koster’s concepts that showed what was “fun”. It is kind of interesting to see that someone had a different feel for the game. It is very true on the incorporation of homework and play example you stated in this blog. Do you believe you didn’t find it fun because it was actually homework and not something you chose to play freely?


  6. I agree with you on the part of getting bored after 10 mins of play. Nevertheless, what do you believe can be added to this game to make it more “fun.”


  7. I found it interesting that you saw the game as a task to be done. You said you are a gamer, so what kinds of games do you play? Do the games you play posses the six factors of a game as stated by Caillois? You mention uncertainty and freedom, so it would be interesting to see if the games you find fun posses those two qualities unlike Pac-Man.


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