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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Dubious Distinction Pt. One

wokka wokka wokka ad nauseum
Namco's PacMan arcade game turns 25 this year. PacMan was my only true arcade game love. Here the word "love" means of course "addiction".

I've tried other games; usually they had too many knobs and buttons for my eye coordination challenged hands, the notable exceptions being Whac-A-Mole and one other game with a mallet and sliding croc or gator heads that said stuff like "Ow", "Now I'm angry" - midgame taunt - and "You're pretty good" at game's end, unless you sucked. Can't remember what it said in that case, but - as usual - I digress.

PacMan was simple, yet tricky: one control, no buttons, and something like nine different levels or mazes. Game's challenge came from faster ghosts with shorter regen times, and (I think) less navigable mazes as one moved through the levels.

I got pretty good. Posted respectable scores of a hundred thousand plus points, but I couldn't get much farther than - well, I've forgotten the details; basically I hit a wall. Then one day I saw a newspaper article about a guy in Pennsylvania who'd figured out how to get through the hardest levels. He claimed scores exceeding 2,000,000 points. I was in a word, impressed.

So I wrote to him and asked if he'd share his secrets. Here the word "wrote" means "wrote," as in pen, paper, envelope and stamp. Yes indeedy boys and girls, this was pre-email. In fact it was pre-internet, pre-Windows, pre-PC...but again, I digress.

He wrote back. Woohoo! Hand-drawn mazes and tips for getting past my wall. Thus came the day when I set my personal best PacMan score, a million two hundred thousand-something. I could have kept going but it took 45 minutes to pass the million mark, and I decided I had enough for one game, so I walked away.

And never went back. End of addiction, end of obsession. Weird, eh?

That's me.

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