For more than 36 years, Namco’s Pac-Man has run the gauntlet, a chewing yellow disc on the hunt for dots and cherries, narrowly escaping the never-ending hunt of the ghosts that haunt the maze, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. But to the Turkish Ministry of Youth & Sports, these pastel-coloured spectres are actually computer renderings of veiled Muslim women and Pac-Man, as a piece of pop culture, is a weapon in the promotion of Islamophobia.
Since the failed coup attempt that tried to unseat President Erdogan in July, the repercussions have seen the Turkish government impose even stricter controls on the freedom of the press, as well as the sacking of thousands of civil servants and university lecturers.
Now the Ministry of Youth & Sports has launched a website specifically aimed at Turkish gamers, urging visitors to be vigilant for signs of anti-Islamic messages and subtexts in the games they play. Users are encouraged to report the games to the ministry in order to help it spread the word.
Among the games cited by the website is Pac-Man, despite it being decades old and widely distributed online for free. Ministry officials have declared that Pac-Man, rather than avoiding the coloured ghosts chasing him through the levels, is “a game of collecting veiled Muslim women. The Muslim women are figured as the virgins to be attacked.”
While other games named by the site for their Islamophobia may raise eyebrows among western gamers, including an allusion to 2007’s Guitar Hero 3 having illustrations that allegedly appear similar to the Arabic spelling of Allah, there are some legitimate complaints; as Vocativ reports, the game Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide sees players attempt to kill all Muslims seen on screen, ending with the prophet Muhammad as the final boss.