Chances are you were either pumping a fistful of quarters into Pac-Man at the local arcade after school, angling for a high-score you could boast about, your hand soar and calloused and growing into the sweaty joystick like something you’d see in a David Cronenberg film (Videodrome, Crash); or, if it wasn’t in the arcade downtown or at the mall, you were plugged into the wood-paneled, Atari 2600 system in the basement at home, the four ghosts chasing Pac-Man through the hazy resolution of rabbit ear reception. Even if you didn’t play Pac-Man during the 1980s, you probably at least know the game; everyone does. That wakka-wakka-wakka sound effect has been branded into our collective consciousness.
Old school video games are not like their modern counterparts, and it has nothing to do with 1980s innocence vs. the blood, guts and Scarface style gore that comprises the era of modern gaming. Today, games are all about eye-popping graphics, complex storytelling, and voice-over. The old Atari games were about similes and metaphors. For example, Combat (1977) and Missile Command (1980) were metaphors for the Cold War, despite Atari claiming that Missile Command was about alien invasion. Frogger, a game about leaping forward through danger and boards of fast-moving obstacles, has been compared to 1980s Wall Street, corporate greed and the go-go lifestyle of that era. Can these sorts of creative claims be made with games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto?
Hey, Why Not
If Missile Command can be about the threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviets, then Pac-Man can be about content writing. Hey, why not. However, one question needs to be answered: If you’re the ghost (writer), then who’s Pac-Man? Bullet points (pac dots, pellets?) may have the answer:
- Pac-Man is the client trying to eat the ghost (writer) at every opportunity. You want to power-up, but the client wants to hire writers on the cheap.
- Pac-Man are those family and friends that don’t respect what you do for a living and chew you out from time to time.
- The editor that swallows your commas and semicolons and forces his style on you.
- That content service provider that gobbled down your work and then spit you out, never to be heard from again.
- A bad day writing, period.
Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.