Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ghosts in the Machine

Everyday I get up and think, "Maybe it's time to pack in the skatebaording". It usually has to do with my knees complaining when I get out of bed, or out of the shower, or up from a chair. The cold I've got compounds the arthritic aches. I do have other intrests. Lately it's been Ms. Pac Man. I'm trying to roll the score past 99 999, but so far I've only managed to get about 50 000. The game gives you just one free man-at 10 000-and that's it; from there on in you are three incarnations of a little yellow puck shaped blob evading the jellyfish ghosties. The original Atari game has four different screen designs, then it starts repeating the last two until you expire. I love the dramatic moment when Ms. Pac Man eats a Power Pellet and the hunted suddenly becomes the hunter. After the fifth screen, however, the immunity given by the pellet only lasts about two seconds. The ghost has to be right on the other side of the pellet when you eat it, or else the spook becomes potent again and kills you instead. You rack up the most points in the first three screens, when the immunity gives you enough time to eat at least three or even all four of the ghosts. The critters all have names, but to learn them you have to find the arcade version of the game and sit through the promo. The Atari version is pretty sophisticated, though, giving limited personalities to each of the ghosts in terms of the speed with which they navigate the maze. I've also noticed that Ms. Pac Man moves faster through the maze when it's clear of pellets. Gobbling slows her down, so if you are being pursued you should stick to the clear paths. I'm not sure what the deal is with the little fruit pieces that bob through the maze from time to time. I guess Ms. Pac Man needs vitimines to supplement her diet of maze pellets. Maybe it's all some sort of experiment. I wish I knew the origin of the ghosts. Why are they doomed to haunt the maze perpetually? And why must Ms. Pac Man cruise the maze in perpetual motion, like a shark, constantly consuming and evading her pursuers? When, in this busy schedual, does she ever find time to hook up with Mr. Pac Man over in his slightly more primitive universe of one repeating maze design and minimal sound effects? Is there some intermediary zone where the two of them can meet up for a quick date? Maybe when I finally roll the score these questions will become clear. Who has time for skating with so many mysteries to ponder?!

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