Pac man created in 1980 by Namco is an arcade game created for the arcade. We must remember that the goal 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 enjoy 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.