Pac-Man: A Nostalgic, Simple, Experience

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Video-games have great value when it comes to wanting a fun time, and from experience and knowledge of many genres of games scattered throughout our world. I too have found myself accustomed to certain genres in which I find them usually, very fun. That is not to say that I am closed to what genres of games I want to experience, as one can never truly figure out if they find something fun until they try it themselves.  So, when it comes to video-games, many people have all sorts of fun based on many preferences such as genre, graphics, platform, device, and many more preferences. Although, when it comes to fun in a literal sense, what is fun? Well, fun is defined as enjoyment, amusement, entertainment, and even pleasure. Although, this definition still does not give us a full grasp of fun, as the described words nothing but vague words that show us that someone is happy. In video-games, I think these words are something that help to convey but not give us a full understanding of what fun is. Fun in a video-game, is something that you find entertaining for a long period, and many people have all sorts of fun depending on many different genres. There’s fun found within competition, aesthetic, music, repetitiveness, accomplishment, and possibly many more “kinds” of fun.

pacman

However, today I’m not here to talk about the many kinds of games that offer a variety of fun, I’m here to review a certain nostalgic game that all of us are to have heard in some point of our lives, which is, Pac-Man, an arcade maze video-game released in 1980 that quickly grew to be Namco’s first biggest selling game in history. The objective of this video game is to survive if possible while trying to naturally accomplish the highest score in the arcade’s scoreboard.

So as soon as I launch up this old style I game, I am already greeted with the nostalgic 8-bit music, and the many sound effects in 8-bit which I found pleasurable at first, but not as some number of minutes have passed. Then you simply jump right into the game’s objective, where most people should find all the key functions in the game within seconds. Whilst playing, you are simply moving left, right, up, or down to avoid the enemy ghosts and collect items to increase your score. The game’s functions come naturally once I’ve figured the symmetric map layout, as well as what the items do. Then I finally start to feel the repetitiveness of the game once I’ve completed the level, as I am sent back into the same map layout. Quickly this game something because something effortless and boring due to its constant and simple nature. Going from Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun for Game Design’s deeming of what is fun, which is pleasure, or source of enjoyment, and a saying that “fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun. In other words, with games, learning is the drug” (Koster 40). Going by what Koster has said here, there should be no fun from this game that is gained. And with this notion I do agree here with Koster, as there is few to little mastery and learning because of the simplicity, and for the most part, the repetition of this simplicity. Overall the experience of Pac-Man was fun at first, but quickly grew to be something that was too straightforward to be entertaining for me. The experience of the video-game Pac-Man is a nostalgic one, but from my point of view and experience, something that is too be looked at in its own time. Because of the vast number of video-games released today that contain a variety of genre and uniqueness, Pac-Man is something that cannot really be considered fun for me when you have experienced video-games today that grow greater and greater each year.

Source: Koster, R. (2005). A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Scottsdale, AZ: Paraglyph Press.

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17 thoughts on “Pac-Man: A Nostalgic, Simple, Experience

  1. I find it fascinating that people found the music to get old after a while. As someone who feels the same, how do you think this feeling of exhaust relates to the way the game is designed? Since you may play it unlimited for free, how do you think someone paying for the game over and over would feel?

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    • I think the feeling of exhaust relates to the scale of simplicity of a game, and how how this simplicity strengthens over time. Because of the design of the laid out scenario and few mechanics that are plainly laid out for us in this game, of course this game would become quickly exhausted over time.
      In response to how a person would feel for paying for such a game, in this day and age, of course someone would think overall that the repeated payments for something like this is wasted. One, because it can now be played for free just about anywhere online. Two, because of its pale comparison in today’s market of arcade games. Now, if we were talking about someone’s thoughts for when it was just released, this would be something entirely new to try out, which therefore, makes it all the more entertaining because of its uniqueness during the time, where there is a limited variety of games.

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    • The setting must also play a role in the enjoyment of the music, it’s just memorable enough for the people to understand it belongs to the game over the roar of an arcade or bar so I suppose it would be less annoying in that setting.

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  2. You have highlighted, in this post, the reason why I am hesitant to play this for a journal post. Mechanically, the game does not have the layer of difficulty or nuance which makes the game “challenging.” As we’ve seen in class, older games tend to have less dynamism than current games, while visual elements such as graphics and narrative elements such as story line tend to draw us in. The problem with older games such as Pac Man is that they are limited in scope, and our 21st century sensibilities have trouble paletting them. Funny to think about people who would stand around the arcade cabinet with passion and competition.

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    • Looking back at my blog post and your reason here for why you had such a hesitation to play this game for a blog post perfectly explained my grown dull experience with this game as I was playing it. The dynamism of these old first generation games had these small set scopes due to little knowledge of most of these creators. Although, it is understandable that there was little expertise on how to manipulate the many possible factors of a game because this industry was still new and upcoming.

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  3. I had the same experiences as you as well when it came to playing Pac-Man and having ‘fun.’ I also agreed with Koster that ‘fun’ is learning and since Pac-Man is a “simplistic” game like you mentioned in your blog, the game does become boring fairly fast. I find ‘fun’ in games when the game is complex and full of detailed graphics. Because of this, I believe Pac-Man was only ‘fun’ for me until I became comfortable with the controls and learned a basic strategy to help me beat each level. After that, I became bored with the game and honestly annoyed because of the music that just kept playing over and over again in my head. Overall, I enjoyed your blog and noticed we seem to have similar opinions on the game being ‘fun’ as well.

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  4. I do not agree with the notion that Pacman does not offer much. While it does not have the “puzzle” aspect that Koster is looking for it does offer patterns. The ghost each have a job and learning what they do can help in achieving a high school. The puzzle of Pacman is learning how the ghosts move.

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    • Is this not exactly what Koster writes about? The figuring it out. Where it differs is in possible ways to execute ‘perfect’ games. This is limited in comparison to, say, Chess, where there are many possible games. Here you learn the ghost movements, learn some basic strategies in terms of luring them in order to eat them, and then repeat it. This is the extent of fun and how long it takes to get bored depends on the individual. Thus, the OP That said, I don’t think “detailed graphics” have any relationship to Koster’s fun, and I question whether they are in any way related to ‘fun’ even though graphics might be related to certain other emotions (fear; excitement; other forms of arousal).

      To the OP: How is there no fun to be had? You say you get the game’s strategy quickly, but does that process not in fact constitute fun in terms of Koster’s theorization? Yes, you might have gotten bored quickly, but was it not, at least for that moment, fun? Also, a really important note is that you need to focus on editing for clarity and grammar. Some of your ideas are quite hard to get since I’m bogged down in partially rewritten sentences (repeated words and the like).

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    • I can acknowledge the opinion you have, as it is as you say. There is some learning and curve of experience to grow. But ultimately, It is just in my view and opinion that a game of this caliber does not offer much because of its few mechanics that it has to adapt to, and think about. When playing this game at first, I did not know how to feel at first. As I continued playing and realizing the actions I were doing, it started to moreover feel like a task, because I myself did not feel any enthusiastic enjoyment that came from playing this. This is again because of its pale comparison in dynamics to today’s current generation of games.

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  5. Do you think you would have had enjoyed the game if you weren’t exposed to more recent games? Also, what genre of game do you typically play or like?

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    • Realistically, I think I would indeed enjoyed this game if I weren’t as exposed to the constant flow of games that are released today. This is mostly because if I was not as exposed, this would be a very new experience, and not knowing basic things that make a game, such its core mechanics, coding, rule sets, etc.
      The genre of game that I typically play are FPS and RPG’s.

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  6. I really enjoyed how you stemmed off of the simplicity factor that PAC-MAN brings to the table. Compared to the games we are exposed to in today’s world this is definitely a loss factor in a lot of different games. Rarely do you find a game that you can quickly escape reality with a for a little while. Really vibed well with your blog.

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  7. It is interesting to think such a simple game can be so entertaining. What makes your experience of this version of Pac-man different than others?

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  8. It sounds like you were just getting bored of the game because you had a lot of experience with past games. DO you think it would have been better if you hadn’t had any experience with the game before?

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  9. Similar thoughts, I too get bored of Pac-man but only when I play it for a long time. However, you seem to dislike it, why pick a game that you don’t really like? Would you say like Koster that games tend to get boring when all the excitement and first time experience is gone? I sure said that, but what do you say. And is Pac-man really fun today at all? I mean it’s in the MoMA and has indeed reached a sort of stardom to certain sense, but how would younger generation think of Pac-Man especially with all the new cool games.

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    • I still think the younger generation admires Pac-man as a game that is fun and enjoyable. I turned my younger brother on to the Google Doodle version of Pac-man and he was hooked for the rest of the night. I think that the experience is subjective to your point of view and in conjunction with your skill level and difficulty of the game proportionally.

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  10. people may think that Pac-Man is a simple game but it actually isn’t. Being able to find the patterns of the ghost is hard to recognize and it becomes tricky. This is one of the reasons why the allowed this game into the MoMA due to the multiple aspects that the game presents its users .

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