Bits + Pieces: Where Video Game Props Really Come From

real life video game parts

Look at just about any of your favorite video games, and you’ll notice a lot of repeating items. Things like Sonic’s gold rings, Mario’s mushrooms, and Tetris’ blocks are all over in their respective games. Most gamers just take them for granted. But did you know how much work actually goes into manufacturing all of those bits and pieces? Photographer Marc Da Cunha Lopes sheds some light on the real story behind in-world items in French gaming magazine Amusement.

real life video game items tetris blocks

Before the Tetris blocks take on their vivid colors and drop onto your screen, they have to be cut, sanded and assembled in this workshop. Imperfection is not an option, since one weak joint or slightly crooked side could bring the whole construct tumbling down.

real life video game items arkanoid bricks

Piloting a spaceship to bounce a ball that would destroy blocks in space always seemed a slightly sketchy (though insanely fun) video game premise. Did you know that every one of the blocks in Arkanoid was carefully and lovingly handcrafted? The hefty steel balls that you spent hours hurtling through space also required some special care: they had to be within a few ounces of the standard weight in order to ensure proper brick-destroying capacity.

real life video game items pong lines and numbers

Pong basically began the video game industry, with its (for the time) revolutionary graphics and amazing gameplay. But all of those bars, blocky balls and numbers had to come from somewhere, right? The metal components are surprisingly heavy; they have to be in order to withstand the beating they take on-screen.

real life video game items super mario brothers mushroom

Here’s an interesting fact: did you know that the mushrooms in the Super Mario Brothers games all start from the same model? They are then painted and bestowed with whatever in-game qualities they will have. Some go on to become Super Mushrooms, some will become 1-Up Mushrooms, and some will become those rare special mushrooms like Golden, Poison, and Boo Mushrooms. And it all starts in this workshop, with large blocks of stone and some hand tools.

real life video game items sonic rings

Real hedgehogs aren’t very fast, and they certainly don’t wear running shoes or collect golden rings. But in the Sonic the Hedgehog games, a very fast hedgehog does indeed wear running shoes and collect all of the golden rings he can find. You didn’t think those golden rings were just drawn into the game, did you? They are actually forged, one by one, at this foundry.

For more of the fascinating worlds of Marc Da Cunha Lopes, visit his site. The “colors” photos in his “Still Life” series are particularly wonderful.

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See more in Gaming & Geek or under Gadgets. October, 2009.