Pac-Man: THE Game.

Hello guys, I’m back! This time however with a better game play experience. In the past couple of weeks we’ve been learning about the different definitions of play, art, and games. In my first blog I touched upon the definition of play, so for this entry I’d like to focus on answering the following question: What is a game?

Bernard Suits, a philosopher who attempted to define this states, “To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal], using only means permitted by rules [lusory means], where the  rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means [constitutive rules], and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory attitude].”(Suits 1967, p.156) 

Pac-Man is a great example of a simple game, with a prelusory goal, which is to “eat” all of the light yellow dots on the screen. While, avoiding being terminated by the ghosts. The main rules in this game would be to stay on the path, attack the ghosts, only when you’ve consumed the bigger dot which allows you to be “immune” to them in  a sense. The simplicity of this game creates a great deal of competition with yourself, which gets the player hooked. Without these rules, Pac-Man would be an extremely boring game. Very much like the Space Wars, which was built as a result of a group of friends’ hobby. In this game we see no competition, there’s no scorekeeping, no game over and ultimately no end to it. Pac-Man wasn’t necessarily built as a complex game but it was very strategically planned, since it is still a game that appeals all generations.

Juul (Game studies scholar): “A game is a rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.” (Juul 2003)

Juul’s definition of a game is my personal favorite because I feel like it sums up all of the other definitions of games. However, it adds what I believe is a key factor in a game. Which is, the effort that the player exerts in order to influence the outcome of the game. Without the player’s efforts a game wouldn’t be played and ultimately would be useless. The fact that the player becomes attached to the outcome becomes a result of games having multiple levels, story lines, etc. that keep the player entertained for long periods of time. A game without the player would be like cake mix with no baker. It exists, but it doesn’t live up to its full potential.

So is Pac-Man a game? and must it be fun to be a game?

Pac-Man is not just a game, it is THE game. When one thinks video games, Pac-Man is definitely in their list because it is a classic. It seems pretty obvious to me, simply because play is defined as fun. While playing this game I am constantly reminded of how great it is! It’s considered a classic, not only because it was one of the first but also because it almost became it’s own brand. People have Pac-Man themed parties, events, toys, stuffed “animals”, etc. Pac-Man is all around us, not just in the game. This is probably due to the game being revolutionary in the gamer world. It even made it to the SF MoMa. What I got from the TED talk was that the game is depicted as an artifact, for what will be of future generations. It made it to a museum because at a certain point in time Pac-Man was extremely relevant to society.




2 thoughts on “Pac-Man: THE Game.

  1. Be careful of your links here. You state that “People have Pac-Man themed parties, events, toys, stuffed “animals”, etc. Pac-Man is all around us, not just in the game.” However, Antonelli is expressly in opposition to this kitsch element of game “culture.” She is solely into the design as it exists through the code. How the code creates the rules/experience. Otherwise, I want you to think long and hard in the next few weeks about the idea of player effort and its relationship to the game. What is a ‘player,’ and can it exist without effort? Is a viewer and a player the same thing? This is particularly relevant when we get to Game Art and the player partially disappears.


  2. I like your use of bold letters, especially since the question is so bold. What is a game? That’s a loaded question! When you say that Pac Man is “the game” and talk about it as a cultural icon I’m not sure how that relates to defining what game is.


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