Kent Sheely power-up box

Kent Sheely's video-game art powers up childhood memories

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What happens when life starts to imitate video games?

Well, that’s the question artist Kent Sheely set out to answer in September 2007 when he hung a life-sized Super Mario Bros. power-up box—a digital icon which boosts your success in the game—on the University of Oklahoma campus.

The result was exactly what he expected. Once people noticed the floating yellow box, they jumped into the air to punch it, just like Mario would do.

Sheely, who was a student at the time, captured many of the jumps on camera and posted them on his website.

“It was really great to see their genuine excitement in spotting the familiar box hanging there in midair, and getting permission to jump up and punch it,” Sheely said in a message to the Daily Dot. “I kinda figured it would be popular, since it's such a popular icon from people's childhoods.”

Sheely’s power-up box caught the attention of thousands of redditors who helped make his photos hit the top of Reddit’s front page Friday. Redditors complimented Sheely for his creativity. Many were overcome with childhood nostalgia.

“This makes me so happy. dozens of strangers connecting through an old childhood memory,” wrote forgotpw2main. “Fuck the war. Everyone stays a kid, no matter how old you get. Deep down they just want to replay their old childhood memories over and over again.

“That is a truly awesome thing,” wrote APeacefulWarrior. “I congratulate both your creativity, and your ability to make the world a little more fun.”

Sheely made the box out of cardboard and a few layers of colored paper. As an avid video game player who grew up playing the Atari 2600, Sheely’s power-up box was a way for him to integrate his love for art with gaming.

“It's always been a nerdy dream of mine to see my favorite games become reality,” he said. “I like the notion of blurring the line between simulation and reality, and seeing people react to a physical object using actions they learned from a video game.”

Sheely graduated from Oklahoma in 2008 and is now a web designer and new media artist working in Brooklyn.

Photo by Kent Sheely