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One Dot at a Time
by Michele Christopher
Today's guest author is WJD, who may be the only person on the planet who reads more into video games than Michele.
What's the point of Pac-Man? Are there life-lessons in Pac-Man? I think there are.
Reduced to biological terms, the point of life is to stay alive long enough to procreate. Since Pac-Man don't fuck (at least, you don't get to make Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man make a Pac-Baby, not for your 25 cents anyway), your mission in life while playing Pac-Man is to stay alive long enough to collect enough points to get on the High Score board. How do you do this?
You score points by eating dots. You show up, you go new places, you get points. 10 points for a regular dot, 50 points for a power pellet. Show up, go new places, eat new things, get more points. Easy.
You can also get points by eating the fruit and eating the ghosts but I think these two last methods of points-scoring are fraught with risk that outweighs their perceived benefits. I recognize, that at some point you have to take risks just to stay alive but you got to be smart about it. But hear me out here... I'm going to argue that taking the fast-road to lots of points is a bad idea, especially when dealing with the fruit but also when chasing the ghosts.
First, eating the fruit. What do you get when you eat the fruit? At first, it's like 100 points. 10 dots. Big deal. It moves up a bit, sure. 300 points. 30 dots. 500 points. 50 dots. Nothing to sniff at, 50 dots. But, look, it's a long, long time before eating the fruit pays off as a risk/reward endeavor. You have to wait to go after the fruit. You chase the
Second, eating the ghosts. This is important, because there are a few levels on which you can argue this one. The ghosts in Pac-Man are the only things that can kill you. But then the only times they can't kill you are the times when you eat the power-pellets. What's that mean? A couple of things…
1) the ghosts are incapacitated and that is prime dot-eating time. Freedom to roam, freedom to eat, freedom to help you get to the next level. Zero risk, all reward.
2) since the ghosts are incapacitated, YOU can eat THEM for a change. Talk about turning the Establishment on its head! Talk about subverting the dominant paradigm! Once you eat the power-pellets, you are thinking that it's time for some R-E-V-E-N-G-E!! You are wrong.
Do not fall in to the trap. And it is a trap. You go chasing those incapacitated ghosts and you fall into the same trap as chasing the fruit. All of a sudden you've got a few of the seven deadly sins lined up against you. And they're not called "deadly" for nothing. Yeah yeah yeah, you get points for eating ghosts, but I'm telling you it's a trick. You get GREEDY. You seek VENGANCE. (Not to mention you LUST after the incapacitated ghosts…and do you really want to be seen as having lust for something that is incapacitated? Isn't that the least bit sick?). All of a sudden you're 3/7 on the SDS meter. That is not good, my Pac-Friend. You need to be pure of Pac-Mind and Heart. You need to eat those dots. You need to stay alive for the long haul.
The easiest way of staying alive and therefore the surest way of getting points is to remember: don't chase the fruit, take advantage of your enemy-the-ghosts' weaknesses. Avoid seeking revenge (although I think, like the fruit, eat 'em if you got 'em). Stay alive for the long-haul, end up on the High Score board. Simple.