Tetris in the sky: Gamers play on high rise

ATTACK THE BLOCK: Philly Tech Week hosted a giant game of Tetris on the Cira Centre in Philadelphia.

ATTACK THE BLOCK: Philly Tech Week hosted a giant game of Tetris on the Cira Centre in Philadelphia.

Hundreds of Tetris fans will gather in Philadelphia in the US for a skyscraper-sized version of the classic video game, a spectacle that organisers hope will inspire onlookers and players to think about the possibilities of technology.

The 29-storey Cira Centre, which has hundreds of LED lights embedded in its glass facade, normally displays colourful geometric patterns at night.

On Saturday, images of supersized shapes will "fall" on two sides of the mirrored tower as competitors use joysticks to manoeuvre them into place.

The spectacle kicks off a citywide series of events for Philly Tech Week. It also celebrates the coming 30th anniversary of Tetris, a game revered as the epitome of elegance and simplicity, according to Frank Lee, a digital media professor at Drexel University.

Lee, a game designer who oversaw the creation of the giant display, says he hopes the spectacle will bring people together.

"What I wanted to create was essentially a shared moment for the city of Philadelphia," he says.

This won't be the first time Tetris has been played on a building. But the 9300-square-metre "screen" - which includes the north and south faces of the structure - could be a record.

Lee already holds the world record for the largest architectural video game display for playing Pong on one side of the Cira Centre in 2013. Pong 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.

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Rogers says he can't believe the longevity of Tetris, which decades later continues to mesmerise players on more than 30 platforms.

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

Rogers, who plans to attend the event in Philadelphia, says several new Tetris products and initiatives are planned for release around its June 6 anniversary. He declined to discuss details.

City resident Melissa Koenig, 27, is also hoping to be part of the crowd at Eakins Oval, an outdoor plaza with a long view of the Cira Centre. She played supersized Pong last year, an experience she remembers as "kind of thrilling".

"You could see the cars kind of slowing down to look at it," Koenig recalls. "It was just really cool and really beautiful."

 - AP


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