SethBling, a YouTuber known for pulling off crazy hacks of popular games, might have outdone himself yet again with this one: He’s gotten an Atari 2600 emulator running in Minecraft.
Let’s say that you’re a normal person and so you have no idea what this means. An emulator is a software program that lets one computer act like another computer. That’s how we can play Super Mario Bros. on an NES Classic; the hardware is pretending to be an NES. Minecraft, the block-building creativity game, has an item called a Command Block, which allows players to enter and execute rudimentary code instructions. SethBling strung enough of these together to create a program that acts like the 1977 Atari 2600 game machine, which is a rather simple computer.
Of course, turning on an Atari with no game in the cartridge slot produces a whole lot of nothing, so you need game data. SethBling recreated the ones and zeroes of three Atari game ROM files—Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong—using standard inert Minecraft blocks. The command blocks read the data by scanning down each row of bricks, execute the code, and then as if by magic Pac-Man appears in the Minecraft world. He can even edit the system’s RAM on the fly… with a pickaxe.
The emulator runs at a brisk speed of about 60 frames every… four hours. But that’s okay, because there’s no controller, so it’s not playable, either. It was only created to show that it could be done, not to any functional purpose. In other words: art.