Why Pac-Man arcade players literally hooked on the game


The actress Eva Longoria shows the standard
Enlarge / The actress Eva Longoria shows the standard furniture handle "on the left side" on a 2007 photo.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Have you ever noticed that the left panel of the classic console not restored? Pac-Man Do arcade cabinets tend to have a distinct wear pattern on their exterior finish? Cat DeSpira, a researcher in the field of arcades, did the same, and she wrote a wonderfully detailed review of the distinct and largely unnoticed arcade game position that led to this relatively consistent pattern.

Imagine yourself in an intense Pac-Man sitting on an original piece of furniture. If you are like a vast majority of the population, your right hand surrounds the game's unique control: a gamepad centered at the front of the machine. But where do you place your left hand when there are no buttons or secondary controls to occupy it?

Maybe you put that hand on your side or place it gently along the cabinet control panel. But as DeSpira notes, it is more likely that:

As you play, you lock this joystick left and right, from top to bottom, movements that move your right shoulder back and forth, swinging your body from side to side. When things get complicated and the ghosts start to get closer, all that rocking movement forces you to look into the game and, whether you realize you do it or not, you're going to catch on the game

You must actually have a hold on something. You will either be leaning heavily against your left palm as it rests on the control panel that is not comfortable for a very long time, or, like most people, you will get caught up in the game and hold yourself tight. You must or you will lose your balance. You can not take the tight turns smoothly and quickly without doing it. You need extra stabilization to move Pac-Man around corners precisely.

DeSpira supports this game-style observation with dozens of archival photos, from the 1980s at the height of "Pac Mania" and beyond, showing players gripping the cabinet side while they play . There are some shots of Pac-Man cabinets with distinctly worn sides of thousands of players using the same attitude.

Consciously or unconsciously, it seems arcade Pac-Man players tend to use their physical environment to make their game easier. It's a phenomenon that seems obvious once it's reported, but it's largely invisible even to the players who usually practice it. for decades. It is also a phenomenon that seems relatively unique to Pac-Man series and some other classic games that included only one joystick and no command button (like Q-Bert).

These are the types of authentic historical details that players might miss playing games like Pac-Man via a modern port, a PC-based emulator, or even a MAME cabinet with a non-standard joystick slot. And, DeSpira notes, it's also the kind of historical detail that gets lost when collectors of arcade cabinets "restore" old cabinets by repainting or sticking stickers to the original design of the side panels.

As she says so well: "Because it's been a fashion for years to give your old arcade games a brand new look, people are ashamed of the games that keep their original finish and patina. should be the opposite … Why want to destroy something that reflects a cultural phenomenon[on] in the games muddles the mind. "

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