Cory Arcangel on Game Modification

Cory Arcangel is a computer artist whose work is concerned with technology’s relationship to culture and the creative process.

For more information on Cory Arcangel, please visit:

Excerpt from: Outside the Box: New Cinematic Experiences (2005).



While many eagerly await the next highly anticipated video game, artist Cory Arcangel is content with his 1984 Nintendo Entertainment System. However, Arcangel does not collect the games to play but rather hacks them as part of his artistic practice to create new meanings.


I came up with the idea of cracking a computer game through my work with the programming ensemble “Beige”. We are also known as “Beige Records”. We started in 1997 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as a record label–releasing 12” records. Our last record was a 12” DJ battle record called “8-Bit Construction Set” which was a 12” where one side remained on the Atari 800 home computer and the other side on the Commodore 64 home computer. And so around the time that we finished the “8-Bit Construction Set” my collaborator, Paul B. Davis, learned that since it had the same microprocessor, he could make music cartridges for the Nintendo . I then realized that I could make videos, and pretty much ever since then I have concentrated on making videos for the Nintendo entertainment system.

“I Shot Andy Warhol” was one of those projects that pretty much thought of itself. I was in Chicago in 2001, and I met the gentleman who patented light gun technology, and he explained to me that the way a light gun works is that the TV throws the light into the gun and the gun doesn’t throw the light into the TV. And so then I knew that I could change all the graphics and all the colors in the light gun game, and it wouldn’t have any effect on the way it was played. And my favorite light gun game, of course, was “Hogan’s Alley”, and so then at that point I knew I wanted to do a hack of “Hogan’s Alley”. Then all’s I needed was an idea , and of course, the idea that was most obvious, out of all the ones I could think of was “I Shot Andy Warhol”. One, because of the pun on the title. Two, because he dealt with iconography , and pop star status, and that translates really well into Nintendo graphics, which are very small therefore all the characters need to be icons. And three, because, the third part of the game was actually a part where you need ed to shoot soup cans. And so it seemed to be so obvious that if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it forever.

I think my work is most influenced by myself having grown up in Buffalo, New York. I think the best example of what’s it’s like growing up in Buffalo, New York is one day I remember in high school , which was Bill Viola Day. And my high school teacher sat us down in this dark room and played us Bill Viola work. Even though I hated it, I think that was a really important moment because it kind of snapped a stick in my brain which had the result of me thinking well, a video could be anything.

When I make a piece of work, I really want the idea to be what spreads more than the actual work. And so for the Mario hack, which is just the clouds from the game, I thought it was successful because most people I know never saw it. They had just heard about it. “Oh, it’s just the clouds and sky from Mario Brothers”. And so the reason I think that’s successful is because I have all these people who heard about it who never saw it. And it just means the idea is what’s spread, and not the actual work.