Retired ghost “Inky” from PacMan discusses homophobia in games

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I know you may not believe it,
but this used to be me.
See the uniform?
That means world champion,
the top ghost in all of the arcade.
There was a day when
I could capture that elusive Pacman
faster than you could say “Wokka Wokka,”
and that was before the gaming commission
banned the use of performance-enhancing
pieces of fruit.

I used to use this really risky move where
I’d time the Pie Man’s boost just right
so at the exact moment that
his juiced-up, steroid-drooling jaws
were snapping down to consume me,
he’d lose his powerup,
as well as a precious life.

But times they sure have changed.
The game used to be simpler a generation ago
where you just had to keep one eye
on the high scores and the other on Mr. Yellow.
There was none of today’s multiplayer crap
where you have to worry about
homophobic teenagers T-bagging your dead body
while repeating the word “fag” to assure
you they aren’t gay.
They say it ironically, to be sure.

It was more pure back in my day:
Just a player with a handful of quarters
trying to test his mettle against the scoreboard.
And us ghosts of course,
to keep the gamer honest.

I’m not saying the arcade was without its faults;
There were times when we were paid off
to take the fall for a high roller
who wanted his name in the first place slot.
Ever see the initials “ADA”?
His games were completely faked
so that he could play king for a day.

Besides the occasional point inflation,
we kept our maze cleaner than
an 8-bit FCC committee.
Even if the worst occurred,
and we were eaten by Pacman
(let’s just say the diabetic hero
didn’t take care of the two teeth he had left),
that didn’t give us license to throw about
expletives and bad mouth our big-mouthed enemy.
It was disrespectful, and it could hurt his feelings.

You remember my friend Blinky?
Yeah, the red one, sweetest soul you’ll ever meet.
Bless him, he’d been attracted to
men for decades, and was
one of the best ghosts in the business.
At the arcade, it was never an issue;
it didn’t make him any different
from the rest of us crazy videogame characters.

But suddenly when the multiplayer craze hit,
poor Blinks became the target of ridicule.
He was teased mercilessly by teens
who didn’t know how hurtful their
weaponized headsets were:
first for his fashionable color,
then for his sexual preferences.
It got so bad that the ghost decided
to take his own life
by walking straight into a space invasion.

Video games were made to accept everyone
running away from normalcy.
We’ve taken the misfits,
the geeks,
the loners,
the lost,
the nerds,
the awkward,
the dweebs,
the dorks,
the weirdos,
the outcasts,
the goobers,
the strange,
the techies,
the brainiacs,
the twerps,
the misunderstood,
the freaks,
the indoor kids,
and the normal-as-you-please.

We were all created equally from the same pixels;
at our cores we are just zeroes and ones.
There is a place for all players on our consoles,
and if we cannot make room for another group
that needs a safe place to play,
then we can take our names
from the number 1 slot.

And without the loving half of our basic code
that put us on the throne,
we are but lonely
Zeroes.

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