I believe that it can be helpful to look at Pac-Man as an urban pedestrian because it gives us unique tools for critiquing the role that the walker has on creating his space. Though de Certeau claimed otherwise, I believe that walking is place-oriented. Pac-Man's very position determines where his enemies will be in relation to himself (Birch, 2010), and you are only able to play Pac-Man effectively because you receive a top-down view of the entire grid or space. Therefore even if navigating the city doesn't naturally imbue the walker with a sense of place, using the tools of Pac-Man we can give them one.
How do we get these tools to the urban walker? I propose the creation of a sort of game/navigation software. The game would be similar to a hybrid reality game, a game played both with abstracted video game tools, but with a real-world spatial location. Adriana de Souza e Silva (2009) believes that hybrid reality games can help analyze the following:
- the relationship of play and serious life
- the act of playing a game in urban spaces and its possible influence on patterns of mobility through the city, as well as our perception of urban spaces
- how the use of mobile technologies to play games foresee new uses for mobile interfaces, from two-way voice communication devices to many-to-many social collective interfaces
I believe that the software I'm proposing would do all three. There has been an attempt at real-world Pac-Man by students at NYU (Pacmanhattan, 2004), but the game is only tied to real time locations through cell-phone contact between the controllers of the players and the players themselves. My idea for real-time urban Pac-Man would use GPS data found on many smartphones, as well as up to the minute information about obstacles and impediments which could be termed as the player's enemies or ghosts. In fact tracking these obstacles movements in relation to the player of my game could then feed data back into a more traditional video game version of Pac-Man to create a trickier and less predictable AI.
In this way I believe that the walker and all his myriad of "ghosts" defines their place in the urban "text" simply by interacting with it. Walking is not always an act without purpose or destination, in fact Pac-Man shows us that it can be the very opposite, an attempt to achieve predetermined goals and avoid certain enemies and pitfalls.