The Gamer’s Conscience 01.19.04

And to think! you nearly pulled one over me, Namco. So infinitely close, yet a decade later and no cigar!

Kudos to you indeed. Took me a while, it did- more than ten years to be exact! But your quirky opus involving your, mine, and Jay Sherman’s favorite video game mascot Pac-Man held within it’s intricate dot-munching construction such a startling revelation. And to think it was so painfully obvious you could very well damn overlook the thing!

And that’s part of the allure- that is, how something so subtle yet so obvious could really hover itself in front of the eyes of gaming culture- no, pop culture as well, and not have been noticed sooner!? Especially as the moral majority of this nation holds moral sanctity so dearly, the spiritually sound and culturally well-adjusted segment of the US population has indeed lived in a blissful ignorance for quite some time now. Life has indeed been peaceful- but only up to this point. For you see, the startling revelation I plan to divulge in this piece will forever change the way you look at your beloved Pac-Man. For you see, after this revelation is shared, your existence as an innocent gamer is true no longer. There is no turning back.

But first, a short backlog leading up to how I stumbled upon this!

It was the middle of Fall Quarter at one fair UC campus on the Pacific-side of Bush’s America, as one night, before I had to gear up for final exams, I decided to go to bust out some Namco Collection for the Game Boy Advance- a token of gaming greatness that had only ran me 10 dollars this past ‘Trample Your Neighbor at Your Local Wal-Mart Day in Pursuit of a Cheap DVD Player’ Day following Thanksgiving. Let it be said now that I suck paramount ass at Digdug. I can’t race worth beans in Pole Position, and my prowess in Galaga is surpassed only by my propensity to speak and write Japanese (read: currently non-existent). Thus, I was left with only one choice; the real reason I decided to pick up this kick-ass cartridge in the first place: Ms. Pac-Man, baby. T’was indeed a beautiful reprieve from academia; the golden moment to let the good times roll.

So I’m sitting there, using every God-given neuron in trying to evade the ghosts; you know- watching Ms. Pac-Man do everything in her neo-feminist power to fight for her right to exist in the face of navigating her own personal neon-bordered prison. Her only reprieve, so it would seem, is that between the changing of levels she’s able to kick it a bit to a clever little sound-bite every two or three rounds. And as I was helping Ms. Pac-Man in her seemingly unending quest for love and liberation, I began to think. The notion hadn’t really hit me until I finished level two, and Act I began. For the uninitiated, allow me to walk you through this beautiful piece of retro-gaming theater; an animation for the ages, and the catalyst behind my thesis:

Act I, as perhaps a prophecy of the two-parent working household of it’s relative future, sees Ms. Pac-Man being chased by Pinky, and “Mr.” Pac-Man on top being chased by Inky. After two parallel runs in which they cannot find escape, the two of them evade their respective ghost tailgaters and into each other’s personal space in digital bliss under a nice, fat, purple heart.

Yeah- just peachy and wholesome! that is, if they weren’t already related!!!

That’s right, folks. Look at the name of the game! Just as innocently as I took Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man’s relationship for granted during that seminal Act I, I thought that there wasn’t anything socially deviant about their love. But there in black and blue:

Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are in an incestuous relationship. There. I said it.

To think that after all of this time, I thought that Ms. Pac-Man was Pac-Man’s spouse! All of this time gone by, thinking that Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man were from mutually outside bloodlines, perhaps living in some kind of extra-matrimonial euphoria! Now, all I was left with was broken dreams and fleeting emotions. For after putting one and one together, all I’ve got to say is “That’s just plain nasty.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Fred? As always, you’re vague as hell! And to think- I waited two weeks for this garbage! Groundbreaking Pac-Man revelation my ass!”

OK, damnit. Let me try to explain it like this: if the female Pac-Man was the male Pac-Man’s spouse, wouldn’t her name be Mrs. Pac-Man?!??! WELL IT AIN’T! It’s Ms. Pac-Man! So with that bombshell in mind, think of it when you look at this picture. They appear to be very much in love, yes! But that’s not all! They both share the same last name, “Pac-Man.” So through simple-yet-effective deduction on my part, I’ve come to the conclusion that they must be brother and sister.

Yes, friends, the Pac-Man couple is socially deviant. They are the rednecks of the gaming world! But why, I ask? Why why WHY!!?!?

Ya know, after finding this out, I tried to find an easy escape to try to put this in perspective! I really did! I mean, wasn’t something of this sort attributed to keeping the crown in the British Royal Family during the 16th century? If Pac-Man was associated with a monarchy during his time, I could try to reconcile it- but to no avail. Pac-Man had no political aspirations to speak of, let alone a hierarchical title to defend. Even so, the hottest political spot in the 80s involved Khomeini’s Iran, and Pac-Man had nothing to do with that (or did he?). Thus, they can’t be reconciled on that note.

Another theory, not wholly mine but relevant nonetheless, is that Ms. Pac-Man was just Pac-Man in drag. This argument has some credence to it, as deviant behavior like this one hasn’t kept him from getting work over the years (thus leading to the assessment that the video game world is becoming more ‘Hollywierd’- but this is another topic for another date). Different strokes for different folks, I guess. However, this still does not absolve the incest charge levied upon the Pac-Man name.

Or maybe the female Pac-Man was reeling from a painful divorce. You could imagine that, after a couple of years married to the rock-star life that Pac-Man followed, the Mrs. couldn’t take it anymore and became a ‘Ms’. That would at the very least give her the green light to eat to her heart’s content, as she’d have to spend all that time eating pretzels and kumquats and cherries, on top of all those calorie-filled dots, only to try to subdue the agonizing memories of a tortuous marriage to Pac-Man. This way, she would fit the bill of the stereotypical crushed divorcee who eats to feel better, as the ghosts represent the demons that our fair Ms. Pac-Man is trying to avoid. While I can’t quite grasp the logic behind it, this could be the legitimate way out.

However, still, I can’t help that Namco tried to pull one over the gaming community. Perhaps it had an agenda at hand? Perhaps one to reintroduce incest into the culture as a permissible act after 1000 years of civilization saying it wasn’t? In this case, was Ms. Pac-Man supposed to be the champion of some perverse progressivism, whose vehicle was a harmless video game? Or was it indeed the metaphorical construction of the recovering divorcee, whose mere presence in the 1980s served the gaming community a silent prophecy of rising divorce rates in the decades to come?

Alas, we may never really know. But, if nothing else, I have now walked away from Namco’s masterpiece just a little more suspicious of the content of it’s other creations. Besides- there has just got to be a reason they included a bear as a playable character in Tekken Tag. Just give me another 10+ years to find it!

Cracking the conspiracy behind the game- that’s the Gamer’s Conscience.

That’ll do it for this edition of the Conscience. In the coming week, you’ll be treated to the continued machinations and developments in the gaming world as seen through the eyes of 411 Games, bringing expert reviews and insightful commentary to you, the kick-ass 411 reader. But it shouldn’t be a one-way streak- and that’s why feedback is always appreciated.

Until the next time!