Did Pac-Man Cause America's Obesity Epidemic?
Is Pac-Man responsible for this country’s obesity problem? According to U.S. Representative John Marston (AZ), the answer is a resounding yes. The psychological effect of video games has been discussed frequently over the past weeks as many people wonder whether the games have become too violent. For Marston though, the problems caused by video games go even deeper. In a statement made on the House floor last week, Marston suggested that any discussion of the evils of video games must include the “yellow devil himself” Pac-Man.
“The original Pac-Man arcade game was released in 1980 when the obesity rate was 15%. Since then, it has more than doubled in adults and tripled in adolescents. Pac-Man is a game in which the player is rewarded by constantly eating pellets, if they stop even for a second they will be attacked by monsters. Clearly, this repetitive activity has trained our children to consume enormous amounts of food. Then in 1982, the game manufacturers targeted girls by creating Ms. Pac-Man. That’s right, not Mrs. Pac-Man but Ms. Pac-Man. Not only must she eat constantly to survive, but her reward was to marry Pac-Man and have a little Pac Baby. This clearly teaches women that over-consumption will lead to happiness. That’s probably why my wife needs a new pair of shoes every other day.”
According to two studies published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, “playing violent video games does not constitute a significant risk for future violent criminal acts.” Further, a Washington Post report found “no link between video games and gun murders.” Still, psychologists have never fully explored the correlation between obesity and playing Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man. If there is a connection, this leaves open the possibility of other potential negative consequences to game play. For example, last month a New Jersey man was found continuously jumping in front of the ape exhibit at the local zoo. When questioned he just kept repeating, “It’s going to throw another barrel, you can’t trust it!” In 2012, mental health professionals have treated over 200 patients who believed that centipedes were dropping down on them. However, the most disturbing example came in 2008 on Wall Street where corrupt bankers attempted to simply “restart their games” when their questionable business practices drove the U.S. into a deep recession. They were allowed to “restart” without any penalties or jail time. In gamer lingo, the Wall Street tycoons simply modded the system to give themselves unlimited lives, money and power-ups. Unfortunately for the average citizen, Grand Theft America 4 is due out early next year.
While there may not be a definitive answer to the effects of Pac-Man on the obesity problem in the U.S., Marston does provide persuasive arguments on the effects of video games on our psyche. So next time you see feel compelled to throw a bird at a pig, remember don’t let a video game control your actions and your fears. That’s what the news networks are for.
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