I designed “MR. PAC-WOMAN” as a satirical commentary on gender inequity in video game design.
The final project consists of a demonstrative gameplay video I created and a playable application
developed in collaboration with David M. García.
I designed, created the assets, and animated this parody of the classic MS. PAC-MAN game.
Audio: Original music composition by Emmanuel E. Lugo
All additional audio clips are either recordings I created myself,
Creative Commons 0 (acquired through FreeSound) or original to the PAC-MAN game.
As theorized in Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins’ 1998 book From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, computer and video games operate under the assumption that male is the dominant audience gender identification.
MS. PAC-MAN is an example of this; by creating a “girls’ version” of the classic PAC-MAN game, the original becomes firmly a game for boys. The girl version of the game consists of a few color changes and the addition of a bow, lipstick, eyelashes, and a beauty mark.
To point out the meager attempts to make the game appeal to girls and to make clear that the original was designed with boys in mind, MR. PAC-WOMAN demonstrates the opposite. It shows what the classic game might look like if it had been designed stereotypically for girls originally and then adapted minimally for boys.
I used the look of the
8-bit game to imply
was the original game
Implementation, Version 1
- Pink character
- Eats little hearts
- Cries when caught by ghost
- Lots of pink, lavender, white
My original intent was to cross-stitch the maze and project the characters/movement onto it.
This would incorporate both technology (essential to video games) and fabric arts (traditionally associated with women).
After some proof-of-concept testing, I decided that this method was not as clear as I'd like and that the medium was not similar enough to the original to be an effective satirical parody.
Implementation, Version 2
I next explored the possibility of creating a working video game
- Researched editing an existing game ROM
The Atari 2600 MS. PAC-MAN would possibly be editable, but doesn’t look like the most widely-recognized version of the game (which I want to use, more iconic).
The Arcade version of the game requires ROM editing, which is beyond my scope of skills given time constraints; not feasible
Part 1: Create an animated motion video emulating MR. PAC-WOMAN gameplay
- This method gives me the most control to convey the concept, look, and elements of the game
Part 2: Collaborate with David M. García to create a working computer game
- David will program the game in Unity and I will provide the texture atlas / imagery, concept, and sound effects
Research: Texture Atlas Examples
Imitate MS. PAC-MAN logo (instead of original
PAC-MAN, because this is supposedly the
MS. PAC-MAN of an alternate, female-centric
Version 1: Pink elements since the game “was originally designed
for girls,” blues because this version has been “adapted for boys”
Version 2: Changed color scheme to more “girly” colors in order to make clearer the concept that the game was originally intended for girls (at the expense of alienating boys)
Final Version: Tightened imagery, more closely replicated the MS. PAC-MAN logo, added final details
- More pink and “girly” than original mockups in order to drive home the commentary on the “male as default” theory
- Originally used Lust Script as the typeface because it embodied the flourishy, “girly” style I wanted, but switched to Ganache because it maintained the same tone but was more legible
- Instead of fruit, the reward icons are of stereotypically female imagery like rings, hearts, shoes, etc.
Crying and Patronizing Language
- When PAC-WOMAN is caught by a ghost she cries, reflecting a stereotype of women
- The prompts on screen are either cliché (“You Go Girl / Boy”) or patronizing (“At least you tried!”); this emphasizes the attitude designers generally apply to girl gamers and pink software
- I recorded myself using a high-pitched voice, imitating the intonation of the Barbie computer games I played as a child
- I edited this audio to raise the pitch of my voice by 16%, making it even more obnoxiously “girly”
- The original PAC-MAN features audio that sounds like sirens in the background; this seemed too “high-stress” for a girls’ game, so I wanted to replace it with more bubbly music
- Emmanuel E. Lugo composed an original music loop based on my guidelines for the background music of MR. PAC-WOMAN; the track is written to match the beats of the “waka waka” sound, the notes of the PAC-MAN intro music (which I also used for its iconic melody), and the lighter, more bubbly tone I wanted
Additional Sound Effects
- Additional effects were added; some were original PAC-MAN effects (like the “waka waka”) while other, Creative Commons 0 licensed, effects were used to add to the pink software feel (like a bling when PAC-WOMAN eats a heart icon)
I collaborated with David M. García to create a playable version of MR. PAC-WOMAN
- David programmed the game in Unity to replicate the gameplay I demonstrated in my motion media piece
Texture Atlas I Created Screenshots of the MR. PAC_WOMAN Game by David M. García