Nine Ways in which Pac-Man Speaks to the Human Condition

Katie Willingham



Pac-Man eats or is eaten.


The Space-Time Continuum:

Pac-Man is in constantmotion through space and you through

time. He moves, but remains

essentially Pac-Man as you

remain (essentially) you.


Also related to motion, Pac-Man only

exists in certain dimensions, directions

that are predetermined; the choices

are limited.


Pac-Man acquires "points" which unlock "levels." (Replace

"points" with "money" and "levels" with "assets;" or, perhaps

more universally, try "stressors"/

"stresses," try "experiences"/"perspectives." )


An analogy:

Pac-Man fills his mouth with pellets: you fill

your house with wine, your head with songs.


Like you, Pac-Man has the potential for

Perfect Play, but that potential is infinitesimally small. It's

a haunting more than a goal—a hiss in his ears, a

budding Middlemist camellia.


Pac-Man is not an end but a

means to an end.


Pac-Man's Legacy: Pac-Man is

the first game to demonstrate "the potential

for character in video games" and isn't

this world indeed a test of character, an endless

wandering in a multi-layered labyrinth?


Pac-Man struggles with ghosts and

sometimes loses.

Katie Willingham

is in pursuit of an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ilk; Revolver; A Clean, Well-Lighted Place; and Whiskey Island. She has a twin; he is not a poet.

Illustration by 

Alex Fukui


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