Believe It or Not, This Is Pac-Man

These strange lines are a visualization of what happens inside the game.

Michael Fogleman

You know Pac-Man as that happy little yellow pie-chart-lookin' dude who gorges himself on pellets and then has a few ghosts for dessert. And while that is how it looks on a screen, behind the scenes Pac-Man, just like any video game, is actually a boatload of math.

This is what that looks like:

1. Take a snapshot of the Nintendo RAM every frame (60fps).
2. Plot each address in memory as a sparkline.

— Michael Fogleman (@FogleBird)

What hacker Michael Fogleman has done here is go behind the scenes of the NES version of Pac-Man using an emulator to look at the math that's hiding back there. The chart is a visualization of how every variable required to make the game run changes over the course of ten seconds of play. Each of these variables is then plotted as a "sparkline," or in other words .

If that still feels a little abstract, this example might help:

Looks like this value got incremented every time I ate a ghost? That's all I've picked out so far.

— Michael Fogleman (@FogleBird)

If you find the resulting image as fascinating as I do, there's good news: , and takes commissions for any NES game you can think of, with the results being a unique print captured from a unique ten seconds of play. At $150, they're a bit pricey, so maybe you'll have to satisfy yourself by admiring them on the screen. But if you really want to commission a beautiful keepsake generated from a classic game like Yo! Noid, you know where to turn.


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