Pacman (1980) is a game that deals with the challenges of foraging for food in a meaningless, inhospitable and often random world.
Pacman designer Toru Iwatani: "Food is part of the basic concept. In my initial design I had put the player in the midst of food all over the screen. As I thought about it, I realized the player wouldn’t know exactly what to do; the purpose of the game would be obscure. So I created a maze and put the food in it. Then whoever played the game would have some structure by moving through the maze."
Pacman displays all the patho-obsessive characteristics that are the special achievement of the first generation peasant. Pacman does not live, he survives. Pacman does not know the freedom and enjoyment of the drift; he is locked in a Malthusian trap without cheat codes, doomed to struggle ad infinitum to overcome his hunger in the knowledge that the next meal will be even harder to acquire. To eat more is to be chased with added vengeance.
For the ghosts work does not exist, their quest to find Pacman and eat him is purely recreational. Failure is without consequence, the drift is theirs and their collective wandering strategies are an inspiration to every algorithmic psychogeographer. Their scatter-chase-repeat routine is a wonder in itself but their swagger in blue mode, when suddenly they are prey and may be eaten by their dinner, is the unchallenged masterpiece in the arsenal of experimental walking techniques. Again the ghosts do not encounter real harm when devoured, rebirth comes as a guarantee. The ghost in blue mode is in trickster mode, they are urging Pacman to eat the freaky corner fruits out of self-interest but also out of benevolence.
Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are not attacking Pacman, evil is not a useful concept in their carefree existence. They are the Magister Ludi's of crazy cookie land, enticing the pupil to work harder and to move further, to new level-environments. It is not necessary to eat, it is necessary to travel.
Toru Iwatani: "The way the ghosts were designed, it’s not something nasty. It’s an enemy, but still somewhat amicable, lovable. Even when you eat them, their eyeballs come back. And also the action of eating itself, it’s not so much eating as destroying, but it’s more like the action of biting to make them go away. And in fact they do come back. So this kind of a non-violent character was very important."