that was the endvideogames

(7 comments)
September 2, 2008

Pac-Man Ends
Last week crummy.com Leonard (whom I might be meeting up with this week) wrote about this awesome article on the kill screen, where certain classic video games that seem meant to run forever run into some kind of Ragnarok, often seemingly because the player has gotten to farther than the programmers thought anyone could get.

Leonard wrote:
Before I go on, let me make my position clear: I am a total video game nerd (though not a particularly angry one). Songs have I written and stories that draw from this pixelated well. My cohort has a fascination with video games: old ones, new ones, the people who make them, the ones we make ourselves, their distribution mechanisms, their similarities and basic building blocks, the ways we push ourselves to best them, the stories we tell about them, the relationships they create and mediate.

So don't take it as "Get a life!" when I say there's nothing special about the games themselves. Like books, they only have the power we give them. Pac-Man has a bug. It's not even an Easter Egg. There's nothing to unlock. The kill screen is not in the realm of the meant. If you spend years mastering Pac-Man and prefer it to Ms. Pac-Man because it's totally deterministic, why get mystical about the way it crashes at the end? This is real life, not Lucky Wander Boy.
My response was as follows...

Some pretty cool links...

Galaga Ends
I guess I'd counter with... why NOT get a little mystical about it? In an age where science seems to suggest that metaphor and relationships are a more valid use of religion than a literal explanation of why things are, I think people are free to find mysticism where they'd like.

(also for people who might not know Lucky Wander Boy, I quoted a bit from the Pac-Man meditation here: http://kirkjerk.com/2003/03/28/ )

The Pac-Man kill screen feels like... I dunno, like coming to the edge of the Matrix, of sailing to the place on the map where "There Be Dragons".

"The kill screen is not in the realm of the meant." - absolutely! You seem to be conflating found, interpreted meaning with authorial intent. The microcosm collapsing because of programmer oversight, as the natural product of code that otherwise seems fine, sturdy, and lovely, seems to have a potential for profundity that, say, a reward intermission screen showing Pac-Man winging off to the beyond, would never have. (Or for that matter, a patch either locking in level 255 forever, or looping back to cherries.)

Heck, even the patterns that let these players get to that point are in some ways transcendent... I've read about the surprising depth of personality used for the Pac-Man monsters, and it's a byproduct of that determinism that allows for this almost meta-game of perfect score plotting... have you ever seen a perfect play video? It's all about waiting in certain spots 'til the ghost waves finally coalesce and then pouncing... not very fun to watch or do, except in a meta-sense, and certainly not what was "meant" by the programmers.


loresjoberg I think metal fans enjoy a level of unirony that's difficult for other populations to grasp. (dunno if unirony==sincerity)
Caught some of a TNG marathon, (OLPC recovery). Enjoyable, but- wow, the Treknobabble and "end of episode reset" can get pretty intense!
Just figured out how to get to my earliest Twitter posts - need to do some personal archiving, I'd hate to lose what's now my insta-journal
Note to websites: white on black text burns into the eyes. STOP IT. (hint: for these idiot sites, hit ctrl-A for ugly but readable colors)
I get so outraged at minor frustrations. It's an unsuccess of the imagination: I envision a world w/o this traffic, or this PC glitch, and-
"let me introduce you to the wikiway, my friend, where blowhard cranks are lionized" --SJ of OLPC, encouraging me to forego disclaimers