Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When video game metaphors go wrong

The Daily News has a decidedly unflattering piece on Eliot Spitzer. Newly released records confirm that when former governor Spitzer was being investigated for the Troopergate scandal, he wasn't at all happy about it. Towards the end he's quoted calling the Inspector General "one more little Pac-Man participating in this fishing expedition."

Now, the investigator-as-fisherman metaphor is tried and true and probably goes back millenia, because it makes sense. It suggests that what the investigator is looking for (i.e. incriminating evidence) will be difficult to find, and that even if he is able to produce any at all, it will only have been thanks to his strenuous effort and dumb luck, rather than because such evidence was abundant.

But investigator-as-Pac-Man? To me that sounds like a guilty man who knows he's been caught. Does Pac-Man have speculate as to the existence or whereabouts of white dots? Does Pac-Man have to blackmail a green dot into passing itself off as a white dot so he can get points for it? No. Pac-Man is completely surrounded by the white dots he craves. He can run free in any direction and stuff himself with dots until he runs out of real estate, then hang a left and gobble up some more. It's just a question of route optimization. He's not on some fool's errand for some "alleged" dots that he's only looking for because he wants to embarrass Eliot Spitzer.


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