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    Chris Pace Imagines the New York City Subway as an 8-Bit Video Game

    Written by

    Derek Mead

    Editor-In-Chief

    Chris Pace is an artist whose 8-bit portraits of people on New York City's subways are a perennial Reddit favorite, and he just published his newest piece (above) on his Tumblr. They're endlessly awesome, both because of how much detail he's able to pack into such an old-school medium, and because they depict a lo-fi vision of NYC that is begging to be made into an actual game. Every one of his portraits would make a perfect cutscene in some melancholy, immersive take on the city—I imagine a darker, more serious Grand Theft Auto—that never made it to consoles way back when. 

    I've been playing a lot of Super Nintendo as of late, which means that lately I've found myself telling anyone who'll listen that old games are so much better because they don't have cool visuals to make up for poor storylines. Naturally, this is just a cover for me not having owned a new console since PS2, and it's totally wrong. Plenty of new games have killer stories, and plenty of games from the 8- and 16-bit eras look amazing. But I do think that 8-bit realism, by being pretty much the exact opposite of the uncanny valley, inspires the imagination.

    To find out a bit more about his work, I messaged back and forth with Pace through Reddit. Read his responses below, and then check out his Tumblr for more of his work.

    Image by Chris Pace, aka Zombieshotgun, via his Tumblr

    So why do you work with 8-bit art?

    I've worked in a lot of mediums, usually going for inks or watercolors when not in pixels. I started on 8-bit because I had been playing with pixels while making a game (that never came out) and wanted to try out an app to make sprites while in transit. To test I just sketched someone in front of me and thought "huh, maybe i should add the background, too." In doing that I fell in love with all of the little details and how I saw them differently than when I sketch with ink, where I'm a lot looser.

    Why draw portraits of people on the subway, rather than elsewhere?

    I draw everywhere I've go. It's a way to remember or document when I want to remember more vividly, or just to capture something I thought was worth others seeing. And sometimes it's just a fun way for me to fill time. I am usually on the subway when I'm struck by the need to fidget or do something.

    Are you from NYC?

    I'm from New York state, Long Island. Moved to Brooklyn for college and stuck around ever since.

    What's your process? Do you snap a picture and work from there, or work from memory?

    Process: I usually start in person by quickly roughing out a form of the person and environment while they're standing there, getting pose right and jotting down any clothing colors so I can remember for later. The person is most important, since the train will always be there for reference. I never take a picture, that seems creepy.

    Image by Chris Pace, aka Zombieshotgun, via his Tumblr

    From there I work into it over a period of about two weeks. I could probably work faster but I do most of the work on the train during my commute, just so I can keep the same feeling in the piece, and it's usually the only place I have the free time.

    Why do you think 8-bit art, chiptunes, and all that has endured in popular culture? 

    I think 8-bit/chiptunes has endured in large part due to nostalgia. Like when I'm in a rural town sometimes the cash registers will have the ring sound from Sonic and it immediately takes me back to being a kid. Beyond the nostalgia angle, the pixel is the native medium of computers. Zooming way in on something and seeing pixels is kind of like seeing behind the curtain, this is how it's all made.

    The same goes for chiptunes. Hearing a glitch in a sound file produces a curiosity, we were just given a glimpse of what these machines can do when not sounding like something analogue, and composing music or art with those raw bits is interesting.

    What's your favorite video game?

    Either Super Metroid or Castlevania Symphony of the Night.

    Topics: gaming, art, 8-bit, chiptunes

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