Christmas Comes to Pac-Land was so messed up
It’s that time of year again. People are trampling each other for the Nintendo Wii U and deeply discounted copies of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge, and it all gets me to thinking about video gaming stuff from Christmases past.
I have a great many holiday gaming memories. I got my Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System and even my original XBox consoles as Christmas gifts. I still recall the sting from the rushed Atari 2600 E.T. and the Babbage’s store displays that only saw copies of Donkey Kong Jr. Math left behind.
One that always sticks out, though, is when video gaming became a Christmas special itself, as ABC aired Christmas Comes to Pac-Land on December 16, 1982. I watched that first airing and am mixed about it re-airing on cable television this time of year each year. It’s a fun piece of nostalgia and gaming history, but it’s really just so messed up.
For those who haven’t seen it, this holiday special basically kicks off on a deeply snowy day in Pac-Land, the place where all the Pac-people live. The ghost monsters try to ruin the snowman building fun of the Pac-family but fall prey to them after some power pellets are found. The disembodied eyes of the ghost monsters then spook the reindeer of the passing Santa Claus, who crash lands in Pac-Land.
Apparently, the people of Pac-Land have never heard of Christmas. Now, earlier in the episode the ghost monsters sang Jingle Bells, meaning they know of James Lord Pierpont’s 1857 holiday classic but not of Jesus, something that doesn’t change within the episode.
Why? Because they learn of Christmas from Santa, who is voiced by a pre-Optimus Prime Peter Cullen and looks more like Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard (but not like the one from Full House). He skips the birth of Christ and all that to talk about people coming together and exchanging gifts, good will toward men and the such. It is also clearly stated that Christmas is ruined if Santa can’t get back into the air to deliver his super generic toys to children around the world.
Now, I’m not what you’d call a super-Christian guy or anything, but it is pretty notable that the Pac-people are pretty much taught here that the kids’ toys are more important than the guy the holiday is named after, enough to make me wonder if Santa really sees an opportunity for a power play on Jesus here… not to mention being curious now as to exactly what the Pac-people believe as their creation origins.
Anyhoo, at the end of the special the Pac-folks are towing Santa to a power pellet forest when the ghost monsters try to stop them. Keeping with the Christmas spirit, they are convinced not to, as it is oh-so important that this elderly human delivers these toys to kids around the world. They get Santa back into the air only to return home to find a Christmas tree and presents for everyone, including the ghost monsters, under it. No, they do not find it odd that a tree is in their home with a bunch of shiny stuff on it, and automatically know to tear the paper off these boxes underneath it.
It’s just all so messed up. Santa screwed these people’s lives now, ya know. They will now forever battle for cheap power pellets and silly Hanna Barbera hats on Black Chompday every year, be expected to drive out to Aunt WhatsHerFace’s house to sit around and talk about work while off of work and all that stuff.
Personally, I’ve come to think that this is all Santa’s plan. He learned of Pac-Land the same time as the rest of us did and saw his opportunity to sell a culture on blatant consumerism that ignores the true origins of the season. That evil bastard.