I fell in love with this little yellow man when I was quite young. He zigzagged and chomped his way into my heart rather quickly, and though I didn't know it at the time, he was my gateway drug into a clandestine world of obsession and obscenely high blood pressure for a kid. And when he got a girlfriend with a little bow on her head, I won't pretend that I wasn't the slightest bit jealous.
I'm referring to the wonderful world of "Pac-Man," in case you haven't caught on to my subtle references by now. In fact, the wonderful little guy is celebrating his 30th birthday this year. I say that's cause for celebration - if nothing else than for the simple fact that he turns 30 before I do. That's reason enough for me to raise a glass of apple juice.
But, really, this seemingly innocuous birthday to those not wearing their video-game goggles is quite the milestone.
Why? Because it was the start of something new. A glimpse into the wave of the future.
Without "Pac-Man," I wouldn't have had the video game-centric childhood that I did.
I wouldn't have spent thousands of hours mesmerized and determined to fling a tiny little paper into a mailbox as I recovered from my latest surgery; you'd be surprised at how much more effective "Paperboy" is for pain as opposed to morphine.
I wouldn't have discovered the endearing quality of a speedy and loyal little hedgehog who could spin and twirl with the best of them. Actually, "Sonic the Hedgehog" could do all those things better than the best of them.
I wouldn't have spent hours with my best friend not having to count the money as we played Monopoly.
I wouldn't have battled evil turtles and won extra lives via mushrooms. I wouldn't have ever learned to save the princess for that matter, either. And for the record, I can still save the princess quite easily to this day. And I certainly wouldn't have had the "Super Mario Brothers" theme song popping into my head as I'm typing this.
I'd say that's reason enough to celebrate, wouldn't you? I'm proud to be a founding member of the Video Game Generation. After all, we did pave the way for future generations to enjoy monsters and villains and evil turtles. Oh, my.
Eventually, "Pac-Man" fell in love with "Ms. Pac-Man." I was etched out of the picture, but that was OK. Maybe that's the way it should be. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't have saved the princess all those times so many years ago. If I hadn't, at least I'd have Mario as a back-up digital boyfriend. I wonder if the "Paperboy" is single. Or little Sonic.