Namco Bandai is shopping around different looks for a new Pac-Man game, which is interesting, until you get to their fourth new look and you freak the fuck out. That shouldn’t be real, but it is real. It’s apparently for a “casual” game. Don’t care. Gabriel flipped his shit and wanted to do nothing but render the iconic character in the manner of famous artists throughout history. His voice had a strange timbre; refusing him seemed… unwise.
The brandwidth of this yellow fucking sphere is beyond space and time. What it even more shocking, aside from its malleability, is the fact that - alongside the wholly safe, expected manifestations - they’re still wringing actual juice out of that little orb. Pac-Man Vs. was fascinating back on the GameCube, just fascinating. But when they managed to enslave broad swaths of my social circle with the barely contained madness of Pac-Man Championship Edition, you didn’t have much time to get bent out of shape about being manipulated by ancient brands or whatever. It was just… great. Again, somehow.
I played a game at San Diego Comic-Con called Pac-Man Battle Royale. It was an arcade machine, which is like a big, big console that you have to walk or drive to. Anyway, it’s like Pac-Man, but it’s more like Pac-Men, or… Pac-Persons, I guess. It’s 2012, people. But rather than inviting multiple players via asymmetry - breaking it down into ghost players or ravenous hunger balls - everybody is playing actual Pac-Man side by side. Everybody knows all the rules, and all the sudden you’re playing it as though you had never played it before. You really can go home, you just can’t go back to that particular home.
That’s the trick of nostalgia, and why yoking it is such a dangerous business. It’s never “as good,” because it can’t be. “As good” wouldn’t satisfy you, now, because you aren’t the person who was satisfied by it anymore, partly because of the satisfaction you felt earlier, but also because of every other force and beam and ray which is always operating on your aggregated being.
Nintendo doesn’t always succeed here, but they often do; far more than raw chance would suggest. When they pull it off, it’s because they do what Namco did here: evocation, not invocation.