In Armchair Arcade's fun new series, we ask the provocative question, "What makes a particular videogame sexy?" Each week's feature will explore some of the many intriguing approaches game designers have taken over the years to make their games more sensual, not just with increasingly detailed graphics, but also with romantic and seductive gameplay. While some of the games we'll be looking at are unabashedly low brow, displaying their raw sexuality like a badge of honor, other games in contrast are remarkably subtle, often downplaying their suggestive themes.
This week's entry, written by Christina Loguidice, features one of the first female videogame characters and is also one of the biggest quarter gobbling arcade games of all time, Ms. Pac-Man. Enjoy, help spread the word, and of course, let us know what you think:
Developer: Bally/Midway, General Computer Corporation
Publisher: Bally/Midway, Namco
Release Date: 1981
Platforms: Arcade and most home platforms
Game Type: Action
Some may wonder how a videogame featuring a protagonist resembling a grapefruit could possibly be considered one of the sexiest videogames of all time. What makes the game sexy, however, is that it features the first ever female videogame character, who instead of being a helpless damsel in distress waiting for a Prince Charming to come save her, singlehandedly gobbles up ghostly baddies, power pellets, and quarters faster than you can say "Gobstopper." Men love a woman with an appetite, and Ms. Pac-Man's is insatiable! Whereas her love interest, Pac-Man, had one maze configuration to repeatedly conquer, Ms. Pac-Man ups the gameplay ante by providing players with four unique maze configurations to circumnavigate. In addition, she must outwit ghosts whose behavior patterns are not always predictable, requiring use of tactics beyond memorization to beat levels. Indeed, Ms. Pac-Man requires more of players, making the conquest all the sweeter and giving Ms. Pac-Man masters sex appeal of their own.
Despite Ms. Pac-Man being a rather amorphous heroine onscreen, there is no questioning her femininity when taking a closer look at her attributes. That she is intended to be a beautiful creature is clear even by her sprite, which features a perfectly placed face mole--or shall we call it a beauty mark--on her cheek, drawing attention to her plump, kissable red lips. In addition, her prominent bow signifies she is all woman, but also gives her a friendly presence, making her seem like the cute girl next door. On arcade cabinets, Ms. Pac-Man's large eyes are often accentuated by blue eyeshadow and her cheeks are flushed, showing her to be full of life and vitality. She is typically donning gloves and long high-heeled boots or sexy heels, showing she is a force to be reckoned with, but also leaving a bit of mystery as to what lies behind this garb, which is reminiscent of the Victorian era when women wore evening gloves and a peak at the flesh beneath could be utterly tantalizing to the male persuasion.
Ms. Pac-Man is not just a pretty face. She is also a go-getter in matters of love, as demonstrated during the three intermissions as game play progresses. During the first intermission, dubbed "They Meet," both Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man are being chased by a ghostly baddie, but they eventually escape their captors to meet and seal their affection with a kiss. During the second intermission, things heat up between the two onscreen lovers. Aptly called "The Chase," Ms. Pac-Man does as much chasing of Pac-Man during this intermission as he does of her, demonstrating her equality in their relationship. If the player has any question as to the outcome of the chase, it becomes clear during the third intermission, when the stork drops off their little love bundle.
Although Ms. Pac-Man is much admired by Pac-Man, she appears to have other admirers. On the Midway cabinet art for the game, the baddies seem to take a fancy to her. On the marquee, the scene is reminiscent of what one may expect to find in the Amsterdam Red Light District. Ms. Pac-Man is suggestively perched above the "M" in the word "Man," with a come hither expression on her face and her long bare legs tightly pressed together, leading the viewer to wonder what may lie between them. The baddie in the corner has a happy expression on his face as he gazes upon her, as though he has found his companion for the night or has just caught a good glimpse of her ass-ets. As you move to the side of the cabinet, the art features Ms. Pac-Man being chased by the same baddie as on the marquee, but this time he has a menacing expression on his face, as though she may have rejected his advances. Ultimately, she prevails, and the bottom front of the cabinet shows a triumphant Ms. Pac-Man who clearly has the upper hand over the baddies. In the game, even if they catch her, she will be back for more--her appetites seem to know no bounds.