Social Media Bros. lets Luigi stomp goombas under bad tweets.
Image: Rachel Simone Weil.
Thirty-one years after it first arrived in the United States, the Nintendo Entertainment System, the 8-bit game console that made Nintendo what it is today, is still getting killer apps.
It will take some doing, but thanks to experimental designer Rachel Simone Weil's ConnectedNES, you can now read Twitter on that old grey box.
ConnectedNES is an open-source project that wirelessly and easily connects the 8-bit NES game console to the internet with a custom "modem" you can build yourself. You can find the code on Github, and the "modem" is a tiny Wi-Fi development kit (a Particle Photon) that connects the NES to the internet via a hacked NES controller. Credit for the controller hack, Weil said, goes to Andy Reitano.
This allows the NES to connect to a node.js server (Weil's hosting on Microsoft's cloud platform Azure), hook into Twitter's API, and listen to certain keywords—at the moment, "OSCON" and "ConnectedNES."
Custom NES ROMs (Nintendo game code, basically) then process and display that data in the 8-bit aesthetic we remember so well. Here's what it looks like:
"When you play NES games, you press buttons on the controller, and the controller in turn sends a signal made of bits (1s and 0s) through the controller cable and into the NES console," Weil explains on her site. "These bits indicate which buttons were pressed or not pressed, and this information is then used to control the game. As it turns out, tweets, images, and other digital content is also made up of bits. What if we could use the controller port to stream different kinds of data into the NES? We'd have something a lot like ConnectedNES!"
You can find all the technical details and everything else you need to modify your own NES to do this here.
Weil says that in the future she plans to make video tutorials on how to make one of these, and to modify the code to make it easier for anyone to build their own weird connected NES apps.
I wonder if that means that eventually we'll be able to play Contra on NES with our friends online. Until then, we at least have Social Media Bros., which will give you in-game notification while you're stomping goombas.