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KerryOn: Ms. Pac-Man Power Up to Promotion

As a teenager, I loved Ms. Pac-Man. At any arcade, it was the game I would seek out and feed quarters. If you love video games, you get it. It’s still my favorite video game of all time.


Ms. Pac-Man was one of the first female protagonists in a video game. She arrived on the video arcade scene in 1982 and by the time I got a hold of her almost a decade later it was like our gaming arrangement was meant to be. Perhaps it was because she went by “Ms.” or the fact that she was the only female-type character we could see in an arcade, but whatever the reason, my friends and I huddled around her taking turns clearing one maze after another.


If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Pac-Man, the game is about navigating the character through a maze, and “eating” the little dots along the way. While clearing the maze, it is important to avoid colorful ghosts because if touched, you lose a life. The only way to remove the ghosts is my favorite part of the game – eat one of the four Power Pellets. Once a Power Pellet is eaten, Ms. Pac-Man temporarily gets a “power up” which means, she has added strength and can eat the ghosts without harm. This allows her to move around the maze fearlessly. Once all the dots are eaten, she moves to the next level.


Anyway, here's the thing about Ms. Pac-Man that made her the object for young teen girls like me to idolize. When she joined the arcade scene, she did all the things Pac-Man did (eat Pac-Dots and Power Pellets). But during her game, after reaching certain levels, she meets and marries Pac-Man, while maintaining the “Ms.” prefix. And if you’re really good, you progress to the point when a stork drops off “Junior”. She does this all while wearing flawless lipstick, high heels, and a matching bow!


It may sound trite, but Ms. Pac-Man helped me realize that I could make it through the game fearless. She would twist and turn, and navigate through a tricky maze, all the while under the threat of the dreaded ghosts. Strategic risk-taking was part of the territory. And if a ghost was getting too close, you could always retreat to the tunnels for a brief respite, before being thrust back into the danger of the maze, once again. Sometimes to avoid the ghosts, you’d have to backtrack or quickly change directions. The ongoing search for the alluring Power Pellets – to become (momentarily) invincible – continually kept our hopes alive, despite the danger and the exhilaration of the adventure. And bonus: at any time, you could restart the game. What an analogy for life!


I’ve recently been promoted to full Professor, the highest level of the academic game I’m currently playing. It definitely came with constant twists and turns. I took risks, not knowing how it would play out in the environment. And just like the alluring quest for Power Pellets, I continued to search for ways to refresh and recharge in order to reach the next level, then the next, then the next…  Knowing that at any time I have the power to restart my game.


When I learned I was going to be promoted, I realized I needed to celebrate it – to commemorate this achievement with my own reward. I chose the dream gift for my inner teenager, my very own Ms. Pac-Man arcade game, no quarters needed. I can already feel the invincibility of the Power Pellets coming back as I navigate the maze wearing flawless lipstick, high heels, and a matching headband!

KerryOn Questions

What were the twists, turns, and strategic risk-taking you have taken in your game of life?

- How do you refresh and recharge to reach your next level?

- What was your favorite video arcade game you played as a teen and are there lessons from it that relate today?

The Kerry behind KerryOn

My name is Kerry K. Fierke, Ed.D. (pron. Fear-Key) I have a unique combination of skills and experience – decades of fast-paced corporate experience in Fortune 100 companies and large health care organizations, combined with the academic rigor of a highly ranked research university. My focus is supporting others to create their own path to leadership development, lifelong learning, and a unique leadership legacy. Take a moment to focus on leadership, then KerryOn!

To see all KerryOn's and other leadership stuff, visit

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