Pac-man is an arcade game that was developed by Namco and released in 1980. Pac-man is a little yellow circle with a segment missing (mouth) which believe it or not was a design from a pizza with a slice taken out. Pac-man runs around a maze to pick up as many of the dots as possible whilst avoiding the ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde). If you get caught by any of them pac-man dies and you lose a life, once all your lives are gone the game is over and your score from how many dots you collected is revealed.
Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to pac-man as the arcade game requires the player to deal with collecting dots whilst navigating around the maze quickly or intelligently to avoid the enemies, If you eat a big dot you can then eat an enemy but only for a limited amount of time as they return to the ghost enclosure to come back to get you again. The aim is to collect all the dots and gain as many points as possible, the difficulty is the same but you can get yourself into difficult situations where the ghosts are closing in on you and your reactions really have to be sharp to get away otherwise its a life lost. I achieved flow in pac-man due to playing against class students to try get the highest score possible so I was really focusing on every move made and how I can get to the next set of dots without being caught.
Using Csikzentmihalyi’s flow diagram Pac-man can fall into any of them categories it depends how addicted and immersed you in the game. Some cases of flow when Pac-man was released were quite extreme, in the documentary “Thumb Candy” they meet the makers of Pac-man to discuss the popularity of the game 24minutes into the video is the section on Pac-man. 28 minutes in they mention it made “60 billion yen, so roughly 60 million dollars…in one year” for Namco.
Categories of Play:
For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Pac-man would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, with Pac-man you are playing to achieve as much points as possible which will require you to survive longer and gain a high score. The replayability to make this a competition with others includes leader boards and also trying to beat your own personal best. An example of Agon would be when we was asked to play free online PC games to later analyse through game theory and in teams of 4 we was to also play against each other for score then rank through score before moving onto the next game.
It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, with Pac-man the movement of the enemy that the game presents you with is that chance, you could be pinned in a corner by the enemies but somehow manage to escape the navigate randomly but primarily try to chase you but if not they patrol the maze. So chance has a part to play with the enemy, some would say skill is a large part of avoiding them but sometimes you just need that bit of luck to reach the big dot in time before they catch you and eat them all to give you space to continue.
To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being puzzle based and score based would appeal to an ‘achiever’ style of player due to the points system and the survival aspect.
But it also links to the “Killer” category as Pac-man is a predator, he eats all the dots and if a big dot is activated can eat his enemies which rewards you with bonus score. Therefore it does have killer aspects to the gameplay and rewards.
Socialiser can also link in as when Pac-man was a hugely popular arcade game people would go down to the arcade to play with or against each other, at the end a leaderboard would reveal and you could enter your initials so you was constantly competing with others if you should so choose to treat it that way.
My personal playing of pac-man was that I was either really good at it or just rubbish, when I doing well I enjoyed the game alot and wanted to play more but when i was doing badly it just frustrated me and i wanted to move onto another game. Emotional reactions to the game shows this game has a psychological effect on the player through performance. This is arguable present in all games but this proves the game could be critically analysed using psychoanalysis as a perspective.