Pac-Man days

October 31, 2006 at 4:42 pm (Anecdotal)

When I was a teenager we used to load computer games using audiocassette players. It would take several minutes. Two vertical bars exchanging a chunky pixel constituted ‘tennis’. Things got more advanced. One game, Paper Boy, involved a boy delivering papers. I don’t know how points were scored, maybe the trick was to avoid the dog, or getting shot and molested. Arcade games were always more advanced than what we had at home, but these required money. I was never much good at any of the games, and although I liked Pac-Man, I didn’t appreciate being called it at school (a derivative of Paki). It only happened once or twice, but that’s enough.
Even today, when I come across Pac-Man it doesn’t take long before I get frazzled. I always make the mistake of going for the disempowered ghosts just as they are about to regain their normal colour – and lethal potency – and getting eaten. Then, that terrible noise tells you you’re a loser – video games are good at those – and Pac-Man disintegrates.

The other week I saw my nine-year-old cousin, Dan, playing a video game in my parents’ house. There he was, both on TV and watching it: the gadget allows the child to be involved with the animation on screen, using kung-fu moves to deflect oncoming aliens. Viewer and viewed were one, my cousin’s imagination snared by that of an overpaid geek in a Slipknot T-shirt, who designs computer games in Slough. I got called Pac-Man, my little cousin is Pac-Man.

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