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Pacman's maze

alt text

is not a maze in the sense of being a place in which we get lost since we can clearly see where we are going. So what should we call the restricted environment in which Pacman operates?

To clarify: I want another word to describe this rather than maze. Answers claiming that this is a maze by some definition or other aren't any use to me.

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Ha ha these bitchy downvotes are fun. – delete Aug 18 '10 at 2:23
I guess that if you don't want to use maze, you will not use labyrinth either. Maze is also used figuratively; in that case, also Pacman maze is a maze, in the same way one can talk of a maze of corridors. – kiamlaluno Aug 18 '10 at 2:25
Pacman's labyrinth? Actually that would serve as an answer. – delete Aug 18 '10 at 2:40
To us his environment can be seen clearly but from Pacman's view maybe he can't see where he's going. It's a maze. – soutarm Aug 18 '10 at 3:57
It's a map. Each level has a different map. At the pixel level... it's also a bitmap. – OneProton Aug 18 '10 at 17:29
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In gaming parlance it would be common to call it a 'board'. Though 'board' is most commonly synonymous with 'level', there might be a sense in which it exclusively applies to the system of pathways (ie. the physical facts about the area) and not, eg., the speed at which the ghosts move. <shrug>

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+1 Board seems like a good alternative. – delete Aug 18 '10 at 4:13
Though it may not apply for 3-d PacMan. It does describe playing surface, though perhaps a little too generically for my tastes. – OneProton Aug 18 '10 at 17:41


maze (meɪz) n. 1. a. An intricate, usually confusing network of interconnecting pathways, as in a garden; a labyrinth.

This looks like an intricate network of interconnecting pathways.

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Interestingly, you've picked the only one of a long list of definitions which would not exclude Pacman's maze. – delete Aug 18 '10 at 1:40
I believe he was looking for an alternative to maze. – OneProton Aug 18 '10 at 17:40
@atomiton That is what he asked for after editing his question. – Kosmonaut Aug 18 '10 at 18:05
@Kosmonaut: Puh-lease. You can go back and look at the original question: english.stackexchange.com/posts/1218/revisions and see that I was asking for the same thing in the initial revision. I edited it to avoid having to argue with a bunch of nincompoops. – delete Aug 19 '10 at 2:52
Yes, it is right there in the original revision. You originally wrote (to paraphrase), "Pacman's maze is not a maze, so what is it?" So I responded with a definition of maze that includes Pacman's maze. THEN the "to clarify" section was added and the title was changed, to specify that you wanted an alternative to maze, regardless of whether it is a maze. That is important because my response was completely relevant to your question as originally stated. – Kosmonaut Aug 19 '10 at 11:27


A map is seen as different routes placed usually on a two-dimensional plane.

Each level uses a different map (clarification: the original Pac Man had only 1 map)

This same usage is seen in First person shooter games. Different maps are loaded, which are essentially pathways around a level.

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No, as I responded to you already, each level has the same map. Why a map? Map of what? – delete Aug 19 '10 at 2:53
Why the downvote? Ms. Pac Man had different maps and though the original PacMan had only one map, other permutations had several. A road map has criss-crossing routes which show all the ways you can take. There is no starting or ending point on a map, just a bunch of routes. Hence, a map is quite an accurate way of describing Pac Man's playing surface. – OneProton Aug 20 '10 at 7:05
I agree with you. In games, the playing area is often called the "map". – Humphrey Bogart Aug 24 '10 at 11:08

Another common term for the game:

pacman grid

See Chapter 3: Maze Logic 101

alt text

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Though a grid could describe what the level is build on, I'd hesitate to call the actual playing surface a grid. Otherwise, we could call anything on any screen a grid. a 1024x768 pixel grid, a 1920x1080 pixel grid. Maybe I'm wrong and a grid can be used to describe something that pacman goes through. I don't know. – OneProton Aug 20 '10 at 6:56


(as already suggested by kiamlaluno in the comments)

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"Pacman's Hell" isn't exactly what you're looking for, but I think it's pretty accurate, personally.

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Pacman's dining table, Pacman's obstacle course, Pacman's environment, Pacman's motion emotion. – delete Aug 19 '10 at 2:54
Nice. Impassable "mazes" of laurels and rhododendrons in the Smoky Mountains are called hells. (See last couple paragraphs). – Callithumpian Sep 23 '11 at 12:28

Since Pac-Man can run off on side and onto the other, then it's a cylinder. This is a common game-pay feature in at least one direction (if you could also run off the top to the bottom, then it would be a torus).

Map, maze, grid, world, and playing area are all terms I would associate with where Pac-Man lives.

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Most people would not associate the word "cylinder" with this, since a cylinder suggests a three dimensional object and yet this is a flat, two dimensional surface. – delete Aug 26 '10 at 1:12
@Shinto, perhaps not - but [almost] everyone I know would :) .. I guess a better comparison would be a Mercator projection of the Earth (a la what Civilization uses) – warren Aug 26 '10 at 22:59

Mathematically seems to be a Planar Graph

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Pacman's planar graph? – delete Aug 18 '10 at 4:12
I have a quibble with 'graph'. Graphs are interconnected nodes, and it doesn't feel like there are nodes per se at the end of every "wall." Also, some levels contain "floating" sections that are not connected with the rest of the board. (To be fair, however, one could certainly model a Pacman board as a graph.) – ladenedge Aug 18 '10 at 19:35

Some ideas:

  • Corridors
  • Passageways
  • Tunnels
  • Pathways
  • Environment
  • World
  • Network
  • Walkways
  • Walls

But to be honest, maze really is the correct term, even if this is of little use to you.

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