Saturday, January 09, 2010

Video Game Freak Outs!

The Wikipedia page for Pac-Man includes this rather notorious moment, which was a surprise to me.  To the kids of the early 1980's, this was an urban legend - the fabled "Freak Out."

I read about one Pac-Man player who played for hours, scoring over a million points, which was legendary in itself.  Then the video game suddenly melted down.  Then other games were revealed to have similar meltdowns - Centipede, Missile Command, Donkey Kong.  And thus the Freak Out was born.

Of course, now that I'm an adult, I can laugh at the phrase.  Hah!  The Video Game Freak Outs!  So much of the early computer era was couched in the hippie slang of psychedelics.  It's one of the most subversive stories in this culture's history, when you think about it.  That 70s generation who ushered in the modern computer revolution were, to a great extent, acid freaks.  The computer and the internet are psychedelic tools, if you think in Terrence McKenna terms.

Anyway, that's a HUGE discussion, and we shouldn't get distracted just now.  I just wanted to share this forgotten moment from the past.  Today, this Pac-Man screen is known as a Kill Screen.  It was caused by a bug in the software code regarding the fruits, which rolled over on screen 256.  Many classic games were afflicted with similar bugs, resulting in the Freak Outs.  And, of course, computers have managed to find endless ways to crash, glitch, or suddenly freak out.  The trip goes on forever, kids - the world as made of language.

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