Years of fighting my way through the labyrinthian streets of San José has instilled in me a firm belief that the person who designed the capital city’s streets took a plateful of cooked spaghetti, threw it against a wall, took a picture of it and then made a road map.
Sure, parts of the city have neat rows of evenly spaced blocks, but as a driver, more often than not I have found myself curving around awkwardly-placed medians or stopped at a mysterious dead-end. While the disorganization of San José’s streets is certainly evident as a driver, I found yesterday morning that it is even more apparent as Pac-Man.
Coming off their popular Pokémon scavenger hunt game from last year, Google has created another Google Maps/video game mashup for April Fool’s Day 2015. By clicking a Pac-Man icon in the bottom left of the screen, users can convert the roads at which they are looking into a live game of Pac-Man. Google provides a handy cheat-sheet of what it deems the best areas to test out their new game, but Costa Rica wasn’t on it.
So, I decided to test out the new game on the streets of San José, thus killing off any productivity I hoped to have for the day. I started off in the simple grid-patterned blocks in the city’s south, but quickly moved into the more challenging east and north of San José.
Soon, I was navigating Pac-Man through the streets that had given me so much trouble as a driver, trying in vain to guide him into sudden 180 degree turns or getting him trapped down a dead-end road. It was nearly as frustrating as driving. Nearly. Pac-Man did not have senseless one-ways or potholes the size of his disembodied chomping head to contend with.
This isn’t the first time new technology has been able to point out just how bad the city’s roads are. Last year, the popular traffic app Waze chose San José as one of eight cities in the world to join their Connected Citizens program because of the app’s popularity here. Despite the city’s comparatively small population, Waze is incredibly popular in San José because of the difficulty in navigating.
Unlike Waze, Google Maps’ Pac-Man will not help you get around, but it will help you laugh at your traffic woes. If you’re looking for a challenge, I recommend testing your Pac-Man skills around San Pedro or Barrio México.