Often, male is assumed to be the “default” gender for fictional characters. For example, while trying to ensure gender balance in the geeky alphabet blocks I made for my son, I came across the fact that there is apparently official confirmation that R2-D2 has “masculine programming.” (Seriously, why does R2-D2 need to have a gender at all?!)
In her “Ms. Male Character” video, Anita Sarkeesian examines this tendency as it applies to video games. She points out that while Pac-Man is assumed to be male without any special indicia, Ms. Pac-Man is marked as female with stereotypically feminine features. This Tumblr post illustrates the point by reversing the situation, making Pac-Woman the default and giving Mr. Pac-Woman the gender-specific features.
Inspired by this, as a little project on New Year’s Day, I modified the original Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man arcade ROMs to create playable versions of Pac-Woman and Mr. Pac-Woman.
I can’t make the full ROMs available for legal reasons, but here are patches for your own legally-obtained ROMs (patching instructions included). If you know of an easier/better way to let others play these, please let me know! Also, if any artists out there want to make Pac-Woman and/or Mr. Pac-Woman cabinet art, get in touch and I’d seriously consider building physical cabinets for these.
Keep reading for screenshots and information on how I made the changes.