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Skyscraper-sized Tetris game wows U.S. city

AP

Tetris fans had a little fun Saturday with a skyscraper-sized version of the classic video game.

The Philadelphia event created a spectacle against the night sky that organizers hoped would inspire onlookers and players to think about the possibilities of technology.

The 29-story Cira Centre, which has hundreds of LED lights embedded in its glass facade, normally displays colorful geometric patterns at night. On Saturday, images of supersized shapes “fell” on two sides of the mirrored tower as competitors used joysticks to maneuver them into place.

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

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

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 is an electronic version of paddleball developed by Atari in 1972.

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

Rogers 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.