30 Rock's Judah Friedlander on Pac-Man | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander on Pac-Man

Aug 02, 2010 Issue #32 - Summer 2010 - Wasted on the Youth
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The cliché goes something like this: “When I was your age… insert over-the-top trial.” If the recollections of 30 Rock‘s Judah Friedlander begin to sound like “uphill-both-ways-in-the-snow” scenarios as he describes the hardships of his Pac-Man-obsessed youth, it’s only because gamers today have it so good.

“The big difference back then is that the home version was a completely horrendous version of the arcade version,” Friedlander says of the gaming system he owned as a preteen. “Pac-Man, for example, had a completely different maze than the Atari home system, and the dots that you were supposed to eat were actually rectangles and the screen had an intense flicker to it so it was very hard on the eyes. If you went to a video arcade you wouldn’t even put your quarter in the machine, it was that bad.”

To get his fix, Friedlander would join his fellow gamers at the local arcade, which presented its own set of issues. “At the arcade, people don’t understand today, there was pressure!” he says. “There were other people watching. Those people might be trying to bump you so you get out and they can play earlier. So there was always the potential of a fight breaking out and, depending on where you were going, getting your wallet stolen while you were playing.”

To alleviate tensions in determining who was up next at the controls, a ritual was formed. “What they would do is, as you were playing, they would stack their quarters,” recounts Friedlander. “And when they would stack their quarters on the machine as you were playing, it would signify that they have the next game. So there’s all this pressure when you’re playing and outside influences going on that could impede you from doing well.”

However, there were steps a cash-strapped youth could take to prolong his turns and improve his standings. “There were Pac-Man books. There was one by Ken Uston, Mastering Pac-Man,” remembers Friedlander. “I studied that thing. It’s like, ‘Move over homework! I’m reading the Pac-Man book!’” Yet, he recalls the results being bittersweet. “You know, I actually did it, I did learn the Pac-Man patterns, and it did work, but it did take away some of the joy of it, ‘cause like, ‘Oh, now I can beat Pac-Man.’”

The original elation was renewed with the introduction of Ms. Pac-Man. “When Ms. Pac-Man came out, the big deal with that was you couldn’t do a pattern,” says Friedlander, who never let character gender come into play. “Any macho-ness was thrown out the window. The lipstick, the pink bow in her hair, the eyelashes, nobody cared. Everyone loved it! Ms. Pac-Man was a big part of the feminist movement is what I’m trying to say.” Even as an adult, Friedlander still visits the first lady of video games. “At this one bar downstairs from a comedy club that I used to play at, they had a Ms. Pac-Man machine. So, we’d all be down there, making fun of each other. Friends goof off with each other. Guys do that. A video game can be a good outlet for that.”

(In addition to being a noted Pac-Man scholar, Judah Friedlander plays Frank Rossitano on NBC’s 30 Rock. His upcoming HarperCollins/It Books “instructional” manual/book is titled, How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by The World Champion.)


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