Frank Lee likes to level up. So on April 4, the Drexel University game design professor will turn a Philadelphia skyscraper into a giant game of Tetris. Observers at the upcoming Philly Tech Week event will be able to play a working version of the famous Nintendo block-puzzle game through a contraption that controls the lights of the 29-story building.
It’s another example of video game culture spilling over into real life, and another strange moment in the history of video games, where a nutty use of technology can create a marketing spectacle. Multiple players will be able to go head-to-head in a Tetris battle that people on either side of the city can watch.
Lee, the head of Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio, made news last year when he created the world’s largest video game last year to display a working version of Pong on a Philadelphia building. This time, once against as part of Philly Tech Week, Lee wants to outdo himself with a bigger extravaganza.
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He is making a two-sided game of Tetris occupying more than 100,000 square feet of Brandywine Realty Trust’s Cira Centre building. Last year’s Pong took up 59,800 square feet as part of a promotion for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Last year’s event received the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Architectural Video Game Display,” so this year’s will likely break that record. Pong used 460 light-emitting diodes affixed to the Center’s shadowbox spandrels.
This time, a player can take a controller at Eakins Oval, on the north side of the building, and face off against an opponent on the south side of the building. Players can also play a cooperative version of the game in pairs.
“My goal for creating Pong on the Cira Centre last year was for people in Philadelphia to have a unique, shared experience,” Lee said. “It wasn’t just for the several hundred people who got to play, but thousands of others — from people walking along Schuylkill River to people driving on I-76, for those couple of hours, we were all sharing in that experience.
“One regret that I had was that we only used one side of the building. So it was only visible to half of the city. This year, I wanted to find a way to use all sides of the building and truly created an aesthetic of a unique and fleeting moment shared by all the people in Philadelphia.”
On April 4, the Philly Tech Week will show off the Tetris game in a festival dubbed “Arcade at the Oval.” The Philly Tech Week event is a celebration of tech and innovation that will span 100 events from April 4 to April 12. If you want a chance to play, here’s a link for a lottery.