ms. pac-man is a whore
by Michele Christopher
Sure, I’m a big fan of the home console. But I come from a time when the only way to play video games was to get a fistful of quarters and head to an arcade or a bar. I wasn’t really big on arcades; too many little kids, too many people pushing for the same machines. But I was real big on bars. A live band, a bunch of shots and people who were willing to run to the bar for me for quarters and more shots.
Really, I hated bars. I’m not a very social person. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like gatherings. I don’t like any social event that involves more than, say, three people and takes place outside my home. I prefer not to leave my house at all. Ever. But back then, my friends would drag me out. Literally. They would come to my house and kind of push me out the door and into the car. They’d hit me up with a drink as soon as I got in the car to loosen me up and maybe by the time we got to whatever hole in the wall we were headed to, I’d be a bit more social.
But once video games started appearing in all these little bars and clubs, everything changed. They no longer had to force me out. I would be at the door waiting for them. Because I knew that once we got to the bar I would fuck them off. While they sat at their table listening to another drunken cover band and arguing about some Lord of the Rings plot point, I would head straight for the bar. Three shots. Can I have the change in quarters, please? And then I’d spend the rest of the night in front of the machine, mashing buttons and killing bugs and driving the Rally X car into walls. My friends were happy I got out of the house, and I managed to have a life that existed outside my bedroom. Win win situation. Except for when I played Galaga..
Yea, I spent a lot of time playing Pac-Man. Come on, who didn't in the 80's? It may seem lame to you now, but that game was the shit back in the day. Do you know how hard it is to chase a god damn apple when you are drunk? Fuck Inky and Clyde and the rest of the damn ghosts. I wanted that fruit. That blessed, elusive fruit. How many times I put myself in the sites of Pac-Man just because I was greedy and had to have that orange or grape or whatever fruity round I was on. Some nights you would find me banging my fists on the screen, yelling, "Damn you, apple! Damn you to hell!" At which point someone would bring me another shot and ask if it was maybe time to just put the quarters down.
And then Ms. Pac-Man came. At first I fell for her wiley ways. She was new, exciting, and she had pretzels, dude. Pretzels! No more chasing around just fruit. There was a pretzel to be had. But see, the Ms. Pac-Man machine was right next to her male counterpart and I would turn and look at Pac-Man every once in a while sitting there all alone while everyone lined up to stroke and caress Ms. Pac-Man and well, I took pity on the poor guy. I gave up the hunt for the pretzel and went back to chasing strawberries and apples. Ms. Pac-Man was a whore, anyhow. Come on, like you never thought that before. Look at her, all made up like a hooker at a MaryKay convention. She's probably hot for QBert. And dude. She's naked. She's sitting up on top of the game in that cheescake pin-up pose and she is NAKED. Do you think she is anatomically correct? Well, I guess those Pac-kids had to come from somewhere.
One of my favorite bars had this crappy Led Zeppelin cover band and dollar shots on Friday nights. And they had Galaga. I had a love/hate relationship with that game. I just couldn’t get into a flow with it. I tried switching drinks. Tequila. Some imported beer. 151 rum. I even tried playing sober. You ever listen to a bad Led Zeppelin cover band while sober? It’s painful. So one night my friend decides that if I’m going to beat Galaga, I need to rethink my options. Drinking obviously wasn’t doing it for me. And I wasn’t going to attempt this straight, not when a screeching version of "When The Levee Breaks" was playing in the background. So we went with two tabs of mescaline.
Yea, that was a good idea. I was mesmerized by the colors. The patterns. The tractor beam. That god damn tractor beam. See, when I was drunk and playing, I at least knew to stay away from that. But tripping, it was kind of like....gee, I wonder what it’s like to get sucked into the tractor beam. I bet it would be cool. I wonder if it would make a sound like in Yar’s Revenge. I wonder if they have Fritos in space. I could sure go for some Fritos. Hey, Kevin, can you get me a shot of Jack and some Fritos? Well, I can’t get it myself cause the mothership is here and I’m gonna let myself get sucked into the tractor beam and....hey...is that "Going to California"? I love that song, man. That dude can sing.
And then I was sitting at the table arguing with someone about tractor beams and space vacuums.
And the whole point of this story is that video games made me social.
And that Ms. Pac-Man is whore who is now shacking up with Galaga.
So what’s your deal with coin-op games? Did you have a favorite? Play those table top games (I hated them)?
Go to the extended entry below to take my “guess the arcade game” quiz.