Friday, 27 January 2017

Post-it note 8-bit sprites at UBC

And here, I'll prove it, I went back and took some photos. Now, these aren't great-quality renditions for several reasons -- a) I'm sure they look much better inside their offices, the intended wallpaper orientation broadcasting inward rather than projecting outward b) I'm sure the sun has bleached the colour out of the Post-it Notes, c) supposing that the colours available in Post-it form were remotely close to the original palettes to begin with. And of course, d) you have the caveat that the office-pointing creations were mainly done for the benefit of their creators, meaning that what we see for the most part are mirror-images of the sprites. But all the same, it's a great curio distributed across several offices in several buildings! I've sorted them chronologically by game, and included original sprite art where possible for purposes of comparison.

We begin with this vessel from Taito's Space Invaders -- you may not be able to immediately place it as an Invader, and that's because what we see here is the bonus UFO that occasionally promenades across the top of the screen, presenting a bonus target for skill-shooters.
(You know, that little red ship there!) So it's a growing phenomenon!
Next up we have some visitors from Namco's all-time video game mascot champions, Pac-Man, pursued by a ghost quick on what would be his heels if he had any, & about to snack down on a juicy cherry he only wishes was a power pill!
(You know... Pac-Man! The sprites should be iconic by this point, they are all rendered in the appropriate proportions and ratios.)
And here we have Nintendo's hero of Donkey Kong, Mario, living up to his original name ("Jumpman") and ... jumping. This sprite appears to be of Mundane (mushroom-less) Mario from Super Mario Bros., and conspicuously... why is he jumping left? That whole game, as Super Mario Run recently demonstrated, is simply an endless progression from left to right!
Ah yes, he's facing left because the sprite is inverted for the benefit of the office occupant. And ... not in the same office, but nearby, another sprite of SMB1 provenance, the best power-up the game can offer: a fire flower.
(Not as colourful as its appearance in-game, but we take what we can get.)
An old confidante, expert in all matters regarding the university campus for decades, explained what I saw here as a demonstration of one particular phenomenon: that grad students grow bored easily.  The vintage of games represented here suggests that the hypothetical grad students in question are in their mid to late 30s, so hats off to these fully grown adults making the most of their coffee breaks! It beats working on your income tax or checking your cholesterol. 
Finally, we have what could either be considered a work-in-progress or ... well, I can't find the word for it: I recall that they have a room of statuary of Greek Antiquity in the Louvre, missing arms and legs -- a stream epitomized by the Venus de Milo or Winged Victory of Samothrace, beautiful despite (or perhaps because of) their missing pieces.   In the "Don't Eat The Pictures" TV special, the Sesame Street crew are inadvertently locked in New York's Metropolitan Museum overnight and Oscar the Grouch sings an ode to these beautiful wrecks as the sublimest variety of garbage.  Here that aesthetic philosophy is epitomized in the upper torso of Capcom's hero MegaMan captured in the middle of one of his distinctive and flamboyant underwear  jumps.
Yeah, that's the one!

I am aware that office windows pixelart installations are not unknown or even unusual, often grander in scale but merely temporary in tenure.  I can go online to see them, but these are remarkable as I stumbled across the trove while going about my everyday life: reality still fails to be as echo-chamber curated as our mediated online experiences are.  Despite the humbleness of these pieces, I celebrate the longevity of their slow and gradual accumulation as potential cornerstones of what might someday amount to a wildlife refuge for game sprites. I look forward to reporting back in a decade. 

Bonus! A reader noted that she had witnessed similar office-window pixelart near her workplace and submitted the following (historical, sadly -- it's been since removed) Smash-Bros. mash-up taste of Link, a Boo Buddy, and his phantasmal colleague from Pac-Man:

Clearly all the work of a dedicated individual. I like the story told by the courtyard I found because it represents a handful of alienated souls in different fields, calling out to each other in a common language despite being strangers. If you have similar images to share, please send them in and I'll post them up here!