If you grew up gaming with passcodes, you coud enter a save state number that represented exactly where you were in the game with your inventory of lives. Game Genies and Sharks let you mess around a little bit more by replacing parts of the game’s actual code so you change your avatar or give yourself unlimited ammo. Now, Chris Novello is here to show you how to “codebend” like a pro by digging down through the original Super Mario all the way to the game’s RAM state.
The Super Mario Spacetime Organ is Chris’s experiment to show how a game can be transformed into a strange musical instrument. The video starts off pretty tame, with Chris playing the game on a pair strange-looking controllers. Then, he starts manipulating space and time in a Mario game. Eventually, Chris adds enough elements to break the game and turn it into a virtual beat-box instrument.
To manipulate Mario’s world, Chris first recorded the entire state of the NES memory for every frame, allowing him to rewind the game at any moment. As for the controllers, Chris used his custom-built illucia instrument—which allows him to physically route information between computer programs—as well as a Soundplane multi-touch music controller made by Madrona Labs.
Trippy as it might be, Chris's experiment has definitely made us look at Super Mario in a completely different way. It’s also an interesting demonstration that blurs the line between the physical and digital, as Chris is making changes to the game’s code though physical switches.
This story, "This hack turns Super Mario into a musical instrument" was originally published by TechHive.