MIT Students take Tetris to a grand scale

Careful, this hack might foster doubts about the level of fun you’re having at you own Computer Science department. Last weekend a group of students at MIT pulled off a hack of great scale by turning a building into a Tetris game board.

The structure in question is the Green Building on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Campus. It houses the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Departments, but was chose based on the size and regularity of the grid formed by the windows on one side. The group hasn’t provided much in the way of details yet, but the video after the break shows the game play and start-up screen. The middle portion of the building is used as a scrolling marquee to display the word “Tetris” before the game pieces start falling. We’re only guessing (and we hope you will add your conjecture in the comments section) but we’d bet they assembled a set of wireless RGB LED lamps and set one on the sill of each window. There does seem to be a number of ‘dead’ pixels, but it doesn’t diminish the fun of the overall effect.

If you don’t have your own building to play on, you should go small-scale and implement Tetris on a character display.

[Thanks via BostInno]


  1. Aaron says:

    Too bad they couldn’t hack it into something that’s a little less late-Brutalist monstrosity, but I guess we have to fellate Pei’s talentless corpse for another couple decades before anyone can admit in public that the man had all the aesthetic sense of a dead blowfly? OK, I guess.

    • Gutierrez says:

      Okay, now tell us all about Frank Lloyd Wright being a anti-Semite again. I think it was the regular grid structure of the windows that drew them to the building. So I’m thinking it was more of a functional than aesthetic statement.

  2. afex says:

    whoever is occupying the rooms that didn’t wanna play along with the rest needs to get kicked in the nuts ASAP.

  3. xszoéix says:

    This is the Schönherz college in hungary.
    They do this first about 15 years ago.

  4. Michael says:

    this is fantastic! great job! seems there are some pixel errors *g*

  5. xszoéix says:

    In October 2005 some students of the Schonherz Dormitory (Hungary) turned a building into a huge dot matrix display for the third time – now with music.

  6. Vonskippy says:

    Sad when even MIT kids can’t come up with something new and refreshing.

    //go bears!//

  7. David says:

    If you liked this, check out this one as well:

    Students at the Budapest University of Technology turn they dorm into a display every year since 2001.

    Here’s a video from 2011:

  8. timgray1 says:

    Yeah, MIT once again late to the party. That university is getting to be really slow at innovation. They used to be the place for new ideas, but since 2005/2006 they have been mediocre in any discovery at all with other Unis beating them to the punch more and more.

    I hope they get someone to shake things up and get them to become #1 again.

  9. sobota says:

    Like a Polish P.I.W.O:

  10. feuerrot says:

    So it looks like acab from the CCC in Munic[1], but you can just play Tetris?

    It’s very cool to do a RGB-Blinkenlights if you have a huge Building with many windows.


  11. wdqwd says:

    Reminds me of blinkenlights. Those didn’t have color but imho that’s a much better match for such an application anyways ;-)

  12. wentworth student says:

    i got to see this, a few friends were heading over to mit, and got a good long look at the game while walking across the bridge they were playing.
    great hack, poor tetris skills for mit students thought

  13. cdevers says:

    I wasn’t involved in this, but when I read about it, I went over to see for myself.

    On the southwest(ish) corner of McDermott Court, close to Building 14 / Hayden Memorial Library, they had a black console set up where anyone that walked up could take a turn playing it. The console was about the size of a washing machine or large podium, with the four standard Tetris ← ↑ ↓ → directional buttons, and that was about it.

    The game was very responsive. Aside from the fact that the “screen” was almost 300′ tall, the gameplay wasn’t all that different from playing it on an ordinary computer, video game console, smartphone, Game Boy, etc. The main problem was the pixel glitches — some windows were left on, and others weren’t lighting up, so you couldn’t always tell what shape the tiles were until they had moved a couple of levels.

    Notably, the console was on a concrete plaza, and there were no wires connected to it. So it had wireless access to the network (not so surprising), and a stable power supply (slightly more surprising). Chances are it was probably just a laptop that started out with a fully-charged battery, and ran until the battery expired.

    [That, or the console was over a manhole cover, and there was a Mechanical Turk under it controlling everything, but I think we can dismiss that explanation.]

    (And yes, other schools have done this before. So what? It’s still a fun idea — lighten up, sheesh. Bravo to all the schools that have people doing things like this.)

  14. Brian says:

    Geez, the guys at MIT copied themselves! No one else realizes they made tetris on the green building last year? Granted it was in monochrome at the time, but even wikipedia knows about it.

    Cool project none the less, but not very inventive.

  15. Hirudinea says:

    Only two improvements I can think of, have it play the tetris theme (its catchy), and every time you complete a line have a floor of the building disapear. (Maybe we can get those guys who used the “nano-thermite” on 9-11 to help out. ;) )

  16. tcpipsqueak says:

    In MIT’s defense, they’ve had Tetris on the green building for quite some time… It just happens to be a

  17. romfont says:

    Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands did it in 1995

  18. Deep Thought says:

    This has been long coming.
    MIT’s legendary TMRC might have prior art for the whole blinkenlights idea.
    Their model railway has Tetris running on The Green Building for decades.

    Nice to see that it has been put into practice.

  19. steve says:

    Old and done before.

  20. fernsehmuell says:
  21. Jeff L. Richtman says:

    Reminds me of blinkenlights project. But yeah it’s been done, but it’s still cool to see done again.

  22. j s says:

    The glass front of the Green Building at MIT has been the subject of many hacks, often involving turning on or off lights in different rooms in the building- this is known as “greenspeak”.

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