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[Comments] (2) : I was reading an interesting article about competitive video game players. Some of these players express a strange attitude towards a game's "kill screen", the point at which the game breaks down because the authors didn't anticipate anyone getting that far.

From a programmer's perspective the kill screen is something to be decoded and understood. It is comprehensible and can be fixed. But when the kill screen comes at the end of a grueling ritual there seems a temptation to see it in esoteric and mystical terms.

With Pac-Man, there has always been a powerful appeal surrounding the notion of "The Doorway" -- a prospective passageway to the other side, a way past level 256... the final prize Pac-Man collects is not a fruit but a key, the last of nine--and why are there keys if there is nothing to unlock?

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.

I could see writing fan fiction about bugs, the same kind of fan fiction that explains what it means to make the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs, but this kind of talk about the bug's mysterious meaning leaves me cold.

PS: Feel free to apply this attitude to everything else in life! Other people will love it!

PPS: The keys are for use in Super Pac-Man.


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