Description of the game
This is Pacman in a nutshell. Pacman, developed by Namco, consists of a yellow circle with a mouth named Pacman whose goal is to collect all the yellow dots on the screen while avoiding ghosts who are trying to eat him. The levels have a symmetrical structure and the levels have no background due to system limitations. A sanctuary for the ghosts is placed in the middle of the stages and the ghosts slowly start coming out of their chamber as time progresses. There are also four large yellow dots which are scattered through the stage which gives Pac Man the ability to eat ghost for a limited amount of time.
The game is limited in the audio department, which makes it more satisfying to hear when it is present. Music is played for 3 seconds at the beginning of each game or when a cut scene is unlocked. Most of the sound comes from the noise Pacman makes while he is eating the dots. Since my ears are accustom to the sound that Pacman makes when he collects the dots, it feels unsettling when I’m moving around without collecting the dots. This makes the object of the game clearer.
What is fun and is this element present in Pacman?
Many scholars have debated on what fun is and how to define the word.
According to the Oxford dictionary fun is defined as,
“Enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure”.
According to Koster,
“Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun.” (A Theory of Fun for Game Design, page. 40)
Throughout his book, Koster also emphasizes that the element of challenge makes a game fun. If a game becomes too challenging or too easy the game becomes boring. The developers at Namco did a great job at designing a challenging game while managing to keep gamers entertained. The ghosts are present to make the levels more challenging but are progressively put out into the field to limit the game from being too difficult or hard, keeping the it entertaining.
Video game scholar Roger Caillois states in The Definition of Play and Classification of Games, “There is no doubt that play must be defined as a free and voluntary activity, a source of joy and amusement”.
Caillois states that one of the core elements of a game is that it has to be so enjoyable that the player will want to see it and play it during his or her free time. I agree with Caillois, fun is an essential element found in a great game and this element is clearly present in Pacman. This is a game i found myself going back to even when I was not required to play the game.
I did not enjoy playing Pacman when I kept dying on the first levels. My brain was not accustom to the controllers so my character kept bumping into the side of the walls and was consequently eaten by a ghost. However, when my mind started getting used to the controllers and I kept winning, I found myself having a lot of fun. I started noticing that the red ghost hesitates to attack while the pink ghost is the fastest and most offensive out of the four. I also felt like I was getting an adrenaline rush while playing the game, especially when I barely beat a level or ate four ghosts back to back. I found myself having fun killing the ghosts but this would distract me from collecting the dots on the screen, causing me to lose from time to time.
I found this game to be very challenging which kept the game entertaining. In the first level, the power up seems to last a large amount of this but, the time limit for this power up decreases as the player progresses through the game. The ghosts also move faster as the levels progress. No matter how much I play this game, I always find myself being ambushed by ghosts. If these elements were removed from the game, Pacman would be too easy and wouldn’t be remembered as a classic.