The references started out small with the daughters of Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) playing the game on an iPad. Then the classic arcade title gets brought up again in a flashback scene where Randall's father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) tells Randall that he doesn't want him to "major in PAC-MAN" while the two are touring Howard University.
However, the simple pair of references take on a new context later in the episode.
While discussing their foster daughter, Randal told his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) about his lifelong love of PAC-MAN.
"I used to be obsessed with PAC-MAN," Randall said. "I had it on my computer. I'd play it for hours after everyone went to sleep. I go the girls into it, too. And it's strange; all these years later, the game really hasn't changed. It's the same game, just different people playing it."
He then uses the game to paint a broader metaphor about life and the "ghosts" that people carry with them.
"In the middle of it all, there's PAC-MAN," he said. "Bright yellow little dude doing his thing. Homie's like Sisyphus, decade after decade just eating those circles and trying different routes, trying his best to avoid all those ghosts."
He continues, "Life feels like PAC-MAN sometimes, I guess. It's the same game over and over again, [with] the same board, [and] the same ghosts. Sometimes you get a bunch of cherries, but eventually, inevitably, those ghosts catch up with you."
Photo Credit: NBC / Ron Batzdorff