New Jersey hacker wraps his marriage proposal in lines of code

A future bride, bejeweled

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

For self-confessed New Jersey computer nerd Bernie Peng, 26, getting down on one knee or hiding a diamond ring in a bouquet was, well, just too old school. When it came time to pop the question to Tammy Li, 27, his girlfriend of three years, he preferred to let her favourite video game do the talking for him.

Mr. Peng, a financial software programmer, spent nearly a month last fall reprogramming the popular video game Bejeweled for Ms. Li's Nintendo DS - a handheld system for which no commercial version of the game exists. And buried inside all those lines of code, at a relatively easy-to-reach level, Mr. Peng inserted a marriage proposal and a digital image of a pink engagement ring.

She played. She soon reached the threshold. And she said yes. "It's a very pleasant surprise," said Ms. Li, a TV producer whose ring finger is now adorned by a pink sapphire identical to the digital version.

Plans are under way for a wedding on Labour Day weekend.

But in an age of zealous copyright protection, the global gaming community - who had followed Mr. Peng's feat through his blog - wondered how PopCap, the Seattle-based company that makes Bejeweled, would respond.

It turns out they're impressed.

"What he did was take the game and manipulate and modify it for a particular purpose," company spokesman Garth Chouteau told Double Take yesterday, adding that if Mr. Peng were to commercialize his endeavour in some way, "we might have a different response."

"We were amazed and impressed that he was able to do what he did. Besides, any time a hacker manipulates code so that a guy gets the gal, well, you have to respect that," Mr. Chouteau said.

The company respects it so much, in fact, that it's providing copies of Bejeweled 2 Deluxe as wedding favours for each of the couple's 200 guests, providing $1,000 for jewel-themed decorations and flying the couple to Seattle as a second honeymoon.

Mr. Peng and Ms. Li are busily trying to pare down a growing guest list and making other arrangements.

All of which, for Mr. Peng, makes weeks of rewriting C++ code seem simple by comparison.

"This is a lot more work," he said.

With reports from Associated Press and NJ.com