What Boston Would Look Like as an 8-Bit Video Game Scene

Artist turns city skylines into Nintendo scenes.

Photo courtesy of TheDailyRobot

Photo courtesy of TheDailyRobot

Somerville resident Miles Donovan has a thing for video games—specifically, Nintendo ones. So it’s no surprise that when he decided to transform various city skylines into 8-bit works of art to sell online, he made Boston look like something straight out of a scene from Super Mario.

Donovan created two versions of the Boston landscape, which includes sailboats traveling along the Charles River with the Prudential Center and John Hancock building in the background in their pixelated glory. Boston magazine tracked down Donovan to ask him about his old-school artwork, and why he chose to show the city in this particular format.

What made you want to turn city skylines into Nintendo-style artwork?

I do a lot of game-centric art and design, but had never made any pixel-style art.  I wanted to try something new, and thought that recognizeable skylines would be a fun way to test out playing with pixels.  Cityscapes are detailed, complicated things but they’re also easy to identify even if they’re highly stylized or simplified.

How do you create these?

Unlike some pixel art that is actually made “to scale” in raster photo/image software I made my pieces in Adobe Illustrator.  I made a template with a grid of about 250 square units and drew the pieces according to that grid using multiple photographic references.  I also restricted my color pallette to one that closely matches the output capabilities of the original Nintendo Entertainment Sytem.

Do you think there is a certain nostalgia for Nintendo-style stuff, making it more appealing to a certain generation?

There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia for the 8-bit era amongst gamers of a certain age, but I think the style appeals to people who aren’t familiar with games of that time period since it’s got a really fun, expressive quality—it’s a clearly digital style, but the scale of most pixel art is small and simple enough that it’s clearly hand-crafted on some level.

Anything else in the works?

I’ll likely do more pixel cityscapes of other recognizable metros (Miami and Minneapolis residents have both asked for a treatment), and maybe someday I can re-visit the Boston skyline if I’m ever ready to make the jump to 16-bits.