by Maria Schulz
It’s hard for me to believe, but one of my most cherished, beloved childhood flames just turned 35 in May. His name? Pac-Man.
Sure, there were others before him. Pong was my first arcade game love. I would wait longingly to play with him, and it was extra special, because it was my brothers’ game and they almost never let me have a chance. Alas, he got old fast. Plus, my parents hated him because he always burned a hole into our TV screen, leaving behind his image as a ghostly reminder of our hours of futile devotion.
Next, there was Space Invaders. I could watch my brother Louie play that game for hours. No matter how hard it got, Louie was always ready for those alien invaders. He tried in vain to teach me how to play, but there weren’t enough quarters on earth to help me with my lack of hand and eye coordination.
Then there was Asteroids. I loved the concept. Move around in a circle and shoot/destroy asteroids before they smashed you into bits. Easy, right? Well, no. WRONG. Hyperspace baffled me. I was always firing in the wrong direction!
The kids at the bowling alley would laugh as I struggled to right my little space ship in the hopes of destroying one—or any—of the many asteroids crashing all around me. I often launched myself off into space, crashing into giant boulders that a chimpanzee could’ve avoided, or just stood there while I was destroyed before I ever thought to move my ship. If this were some sort of pilot training test for Jedi knights, the rebel cause would have never stood a chance. I was hopeless.
But then…Pac-Man came along. We understood each other completely. With one tap of the joystick, I could help him run away from the legion of furry monsters that wanted to eat him. If there was anything on this planet that I understood, it was the ability to spot an escape from bigger, faster, more lethal individuals.
Arcade folk and bowling buddies alike were wowed by how totally in sync we seemed to be. Pac-Man took me to a place I had only dreamed of before: the top of a leader board. My name was in lights! What a rush, man. Plus, Pac-Man gave me the biggest bang for my buck ever. I could make one quarter last for days thanks to him. My mother would’ve been proud.
Life was simple and good.
Pac-Man and I were pretty tight for a couple of years. That’s not to say we didn’t have our rough patches. At one point, he went through some changes and became Super Pac Man. But the secret to an enduring relationship is being flexible, so I learned his new habits and adapted. I was sure we were meant to always be together.
Then, Mrs. Pac-Man came along. I suppose now, looking back, that I can understand why he was attracted to her. She was bigger, flashier, and brighter, not to mention related to him. It was like that old Barbara Streisand/Barry Gibb song: “and then you found her. You let the stranger in. Who’s sorry now?”
And nothing was ever the same again.
We grew apart. The years passed, and I found new loves. Mike Tyson’s Knockout! Kid Icarus. Mario Brothers. Tetras. Frogger! Sonic. Angry Birds. Dumb Ways to Die. Just Dance. Wii Bowling. My old buddy—permanently relegated to the friend zone—the Pinball Machine stood there, waiting for me whenever I needed an arcade fix. He tried his best to cheer me up, but it wasn’t him. It was me.
Sure, they were all fun, but like the old song says (not sung by Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb), nothing compares to you, Pac-Man. So imagine my surprise and joy when we ran into each other in the APP store, thanks to his 35th birthday!
We’re moving slowly, getting to know each other again. Some things are completely different, and some things are the same, but I think our mutual admiration and maturity will only help us as we head out on this road of pointless hours spent in each other’s company.
We’re reunited, and it feels so good.
Here’s a great, step-by-step tutorial from The Decorated Cookie that will teach you how to bake these adorable Pac-Man cookies. The perfect combination of two things I love: cookies and arcade games!
So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your favorite arcade game? Did you ever see your initials in bright lights on the scoreboard? Are there cookies dedicated to your arcade love? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!