.walk: Eating grass, Crunching Code

Wilfried Houjebek

Searching for the forest in the city. Searching for the city in the forest. Psychogeography and Urban Foraging are involved.

Excerpts from Pacman forage psychogeography, originally published on the Cryptoforestry blog

Pacman (1980) is a game that deals with the challenges of foraging for food in a meaningless, inhospitable, and often random world.

Food is part of the basic concept. In my initial design I had put the player in the midst of food all over the screen. As I thought about it, I realized the player wouldn’t know exactly what to do; the purpose of the game would be obscure. So I created a maze and put the food in it. Then whoever played the game would have some structure by moving through the maze.

Toru Iwatani, Pacman designer

Pacman displays all the patho-obsessive characteristics that are the special achievement of the first generation peasant. Pacman does not live, he survives. Pacman does not know the freedom and enjoyment of the drift; he is locked in a Malthusian trap without cheat codes, doomed to struggle ad infinitum to overcome his hunger in the knowledge that the next meal will be even harder to acquire. To eat more is to be chased with added vengeance.

For the ghosts work does not exist; their quest to find Pacman and eat him is purely recreational. Failure is without consequence; the drift is theirs and their collective wandering strategies are an inspiration to every algorithmic psychogeographer. Their scatter-chase-repeat routine is a wonder in itself but their swagger in blue mode, when suddenly they are prey and may be eaten by their dinner, is the unchallenged masterpiece in the arsenal of experimental walking techniques.

On the 8th of May 2011, two teams of foragers set out from Station Sloterdijk in Amsterdam to investigate the local edible landscape. Each team consisted of a time-keeper, a spotter, a geographer, and foragers. Based on the algorithmic instructions inspired by the foraging behaviour of Pacman Ghosts, and carrying caloric field guides for foragers, the teams went on separate 75-minute expeditions.

#pacman #forage #psychogeography

Team A: Wilfried, Theun, Petr, Bredan, Michelle.
180 g rocket = 72 cal
330 g “mixed salad” = 37 cal
60 g tulip = 43 cal
walking: 37 min = 148 cal
foraging: 37 min = 259 cal

Team B: Cocky, Lipika, Joelle, Nico.
65 g “mixed salad” and smeerwortel = 24 cal
45 g elderberry blossom = 5 cal
300 g onions  = 80 cal
34 g oregano = 14 cal
260 g “mixed roots” = 39 cal
walking: 25 min = 100 cal
foraging: 50 min: 350 cal

A Botanical Sanctuary