For the next month, Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog will be dabbling in each other’s specialties in a grand celebration of what makes these two iconic figures great. And although Sonic has fallen into a few proverbial spike pits over the last decade, Pac-Man just keeps right on Pac-Manning, often repackaging and re-purposing the same game we’ve seen hundreds of times since its debut in 1980.
It’s interesting to note the continued success of this formula, with the official app on iOS holding a sturdy four out of five stars. Ecstatic reviewers claim that the game is ‘geourgeous’, and that ‘when I go we’re I wanna go it will take me to the baddies’ (for Latin majors, the phrase sic erat scriptum may come to mind).
So what is it that keeps this unassuming arcade classic so relevant in today’s era? Let’s dissect an oldie, but a goodie. For as Pac once said, ‘There’s nobody in the business strong enough to scare me.’ Not sure which game that was from, but there you go.
Simplicity and Accessibility
80s arcade titles work on a basic premise where most of the answers are apparent right from the start. You’re a little yellow man, and there are ghosts roaming about the stage. When you move around, you eat dots. Without any other cues beyond that, it’s quite obvious that you ought to keep collecting those dots, and that those ghosts probably aren’t your friends. When you eat a bigger dot, the ghosts change color, and appear perturbed. They are also beginning to actively flee from you, so unless you are the most cautious gamer of all time, your inclination is to try and combat the ghosts. You devour their very flesh, they retreat to their base, the cycle repeats.
There is no need for any explanation beyond that. The language of Pac-Man is universal, and the goals and dangers are just as clear to a person playing in Brazil as it is to someone in Timbuktu. There is no prerequisite for enjoyment, and if you had never picked up a game in all of your life, you still won’t be baffled by the gameplay. The only difference between a novice player and a more experienced one will be their level of success in completing the challenge, and that is entirely up to them.