NES Sparklines

Regular price $100.00

India ink on Bristol paper, 11x14" (frame not included)

To make these drawings, I use an NES emulator of my own creation to record changes in the Nintendo’s memory while playing a game. The NES only had 2048 bytes of RAM! For each memory address, I plot its values (ranging from 0 to 255) over time as an individual sparkline. I only include addresses whose value changes at least once, so there are usually only a few hundred sparklines shown. The RAM is snapshotted once per frame, at 60 frames per second, for several seconds - so each sparkline contains a few hundred data points. Because each game developer used the console memory in different ways, each game produces its own distinctive look when plotted in this way.

When viewed alongside a video recording of the gameplay, it’s possible to reverse engineer the meaning of some of the sparklines. For example, one value might represent the player’s score. Another might represent the position of a barrel on the screen, or whether Mario is currently jumping. Even without the associated video clip, it’s possible to make guesses about the meaning of the values.

I personally fulfill these orders on demand with an AxiDraw V3/A3 pen plotter. It takes about an hour to draw with a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph technical pen on Strathmore Smooth Bristol paper. I number and initial each drawing by hand.

Check out the video below to see the plotter in action!