As a wise man once sung, "Time is fleeting" (just before launching into the Time Warp). Due to its ephemeral nature, and the fact that each encroaching birthday takes more leisure time away from me, I find more and more often I do not have the time to revisit the games I'd like to. Most games take a lot of time to replay, and many do not age gracefully.
However, there are some titles that I find it hard to avoid replaying - they possess that perfect combination of length, nostalgia, replayability, and challenge that draws me in. One in particular. One that continues to haunt the nigh-deserted remains of modern arcades, tucked in the darkest, dankest corners of bowling alleys and pubs, and whose iconic music will forever reign in my heart. A game that brings to mind memories of numerous shouted curses, sore wrists, moments of intense panic, and shared comraderie.
A game called Ms. Pac-Man.
Insert your own screw-related puns. I wouldn`t dare mock her.
Ever since I was old enough to reach the controls (which wasn't that old, since the local bowling alley had one of the sit-down models), I would play Ms. Pac-Man - on my own or against friends and family, or watch others, trying to see how their strategies worked. It was my highlight of each bowling visit.
Even as I grew up, I would still play the game (and Pac-Man as well, although that was far less common). One of my fondest memories is going on a week-and-a-half-long family road trip, and playing Ms. Pac-Man against my father EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. The best part is that we never had too look too hard for a machine - most hotels had one somewhere, and if not, we would find a local arcade. We had a running competition, and would play several games back-to-back. I lost more than I won, by not by that much, and it led to much sassing of each other during the trip.
It plays Ms. Pac-Man AND holds your beer - it's a miracle machine!
During university, there was a Ms. Pac-Man cabinet perversely located close to the bus stop. I'd often miss a few buses after classes due to playing it for only a few minutes (i.e., when I ran out of change). Even now, whenever I see a Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man cabinet, I get the urge to play another game, and I cannot see this ever changing.
Sure, there are other games I replay, on computer or console, and most are much better games. But long ago a jaundiced siren captured my heart and challenged my reflexes, and I've never looked back.
Ms. Pac-Man is the game I will always go back to, due to its place in my memories and the fact that it's always around. It may be mostly out-of-sight, but it's always out there - in that bar down the street, tucked away in that pool hall, and hopefully a little farther down the road where you'll stop for the night on your trip. Waiting to welcome you back, and send spirits to hunt you down and destroy you.
I wouldn't want it any other way.