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Tetris in the sky: Gamers play on Philly building

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Sam Robinson said it's been about 15 years since he last played the videogame Tetris on a Game Boy. On Saturday night, he played it on the side of a skyscraper.

Robinson, 30, was among the hundreds of Tetris fans who had a little fun Saturday with a big version of the classic video game on the side of the 29-story Cira Centre in downtown Philadelphia.

"It has been probably 15 years since I played Tetris last on a Game Boy, and it's much different playing on the side of building that's a half-mile away," the city resident said. "Everything's happening so quick."

The hundreds of LED lights embedded in the building's glass facade normally display colorful patterns. On Saturday night, images of supersized shapes "fell" on two sides of the mirrored tower as competitors used joysticks to maneuver them, creating a spectacle against the night sky that organizers hoped inspired onlookers and players to think about the possibilities of technology.

It wasn't the first time Tetris has been played on a building. But the 100,000-square-foot "screen" - which includes the north and south faces of the structure - could be a record.

The spectacle kicked off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week. It also celebrated the upcoming 30th anniversary of a game revered as the epitome of elegance and simplicity, said Frank Lee, an associate professor of digital media at Drexel University.

Lee, a game designer who oversaw creation of the giant display, said putting it on an office building was like making a huge virtual campfire.

"This project began as a personal love letter to the games that I loved when I was a child - Pong last year, Tetris this year. But it ended up as a way of uniting the city of Philadelphia," Lee told the crowd.

Lee already holds the Guinness World Record for the world's largest architectural video game display for playing Pong on one side of the Cira Centre last year. Pong, the granddaddy of all video games, is an electronic version of paddleball developed by Atari in 1972.

Tetris, created by Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, challenges players to rotate and arrange falling shapes into complete rows.

It became a global phenomenon in the late 1980s after game designer Henk Rogers, who had seen Tetris at a trade show in Las Vegas, acquired the rights and struck a deal to put it on Nintendo's original Game Boy.

Rogers, who was among the players on Saturday in Philadelphia, said he can't believe the longevity of Tetris, which decades later continues to mesmerize players on more than 30 platforms.

"If a game lasts a year, that's amazing," said Rogers, now managing director of The Tetris Co. "They usually go out of style very quickly."

Rogers said several new Tetris products and initiatives are planned for release around its June 6 anniversary. He declined to discuss details.


Follow Kathy Matheson at www.twitter.com/kmatheson

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banngbanng April 06 2014 at 1:18 PM

TETRIS RULES!!! Cool idea but the city's haze of lights makes for poor contrast- nice concept though!!!

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belldn3 April 06 2014 at 2:11 PM

Pac-man would have been cooler.

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sindfetish April 06 2014 at 6:42 PM

Show me "GALAGA" and i'll be impressed. Go ahead....google it millennials ....we will wait.

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rowanugrad April 06 2014 at 8:41 PM

Ehhh... I saw this last night and didn't know it was supposed to be Tetris. Was trying to figure out what was going on.

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1 reply
mbaughn1 rowanugrad April 06 2014 at 9:30 PM

okay so now you know

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Joe April 06 2014 at 9:26 AM

boycott Huffington Post !!!!! Until they have a section for straight white voices !!!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
6 replies
Easy Does It April 06 2014 at 10:58 AM

Get with the program, Joe. Until straight white men are officially catagorized as a MINORITY, which they are, it will still be the same song & dance.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
REX SPENCE April 06 2014 at 1:29 PM

Have you guys tired CRASINS? They're DEEEEEELIOUS!

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1 reply
viperbl REX SPENCE April 07 2014 at 2:21 AM


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rbrtkyte April 06 2014 at 2:01 PM

Might have made more sense to shut off any of the lights that weren't part of the display ,jeez!!.. and you call yourselves gamers ?
This is just as bad as not complaining or making sure (as a game MAKER) that gamepads are not universally compliant with a computer so that people don't rip their hair out trying to figure out how to "map" them thats part of the game making process you idiots !! after all playstation xbox and nintendo did not make you do that and the damn game was produced ON a computer !!!
...all the while charging more and more for the game itself .
I can't imagine why people don't play high end games on a computer when faced with WASD or gampad usage .....total ignorance .

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rockwf9 April 06 2014 at 4:20 PM

This is terrible, you can't even really see what's going on. what a horrible demonstration. I would hav shown up, been like wtf is this, made a small to medium-small scene, and then left.

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