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Tetris effect (wikipedia.org)
89 points by vuknje on July 10, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

I'd be interested to know whether this guy gets the Tetris effect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwC544Z37qo According to the video description, he's the best Tetris player in the world, and I can believe it: the end of the video is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

No, you stop having the Tetris effect after a while. My theory is that you experience the effect only as long as your brain is busy figuring out / internalizing how Tetris works. After you have learned to recognize all the patterns instantly, the game becomes all about precise fingers motion control. The Tetris effect is gone at this point.

[Or at least it's how it worked for me; I never tried console Tetris, but I play different PC versions since '91 regularly. I can usually play level 9 tint (it's linux tetris clone) till I get bored.]

{also, "show next" is for sissies}

Truth. That's exactly what it is. Personally, I only remember seeing falling blocks in my head, never looking at buildings at fitting them together, as referenced by the Wikipedia article.

You're so old school, by the way. Haha. Nobody around my age (21) ever regularly played on anything other than a TI graphing calculator. There was a great viral effect to this, in that when you downloaded the game from someone else's calculator, you inherited the high scores on their game as well. It's funny to think about some current high school freshman playing tetris on his calculator and thinking, 'Who the hell is this Towle guy? What an asshole.'

And on top of that, the ubiquitousness of the versions of tetris on those calculators allowed for true player-to-player comparison. Sure, there was way more than one version available, but you might be surprised how few would ever use play non-standard. Let's see just how ubiquitous they were/are! (Hopefully someone responds with scores that make logical sense by comparison. Otherwise I'm going to look more ridiculous than absurd.)

Can anyone beat ~42k on the TI-86 version? Or ~498k on the TI-89 version? Or have inherited high scores in that range? (Note: a good, experienced player on those versions would have high scores around in the low 30-thousands and 300-thousands, respectively. I was obsessed, wouldn't beat my own scores for months before having an "in the zone" game, pushing them significantly higher each time.)

{Damn right. "Hold piece" is nonsense, too.}

The best Tetris version I've played is the one on my HP48GX. I like it so much that I think I've spend more time playing Tetris on my calculator than doing other things with it ;-)

22, played Tetris and variants on older machines when younger. I felt obligated to comment to contradict your "nobody"claim.

I was totally agreeing with your description of the end of the video, and then I actually got to the end of the video. Absolutely mind-boggling.

I've shown the video to a few people, and they sometimes completely miss what's going on at the end. When I tell them, I usually have to pick their jaws up off the ground.

Similar: Rubik's cube official world record: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzGjbjUPVUo&feature=fvw

I wonder if it is just good game mechanics or the way that guy processes things in his brain but he always gets tetris on the right side and not the left.

In tetris, only the l and the o pieces spawn exactly in the center. All the other pieces spawn slightly to the left. Therefore, on average, you need to make slightly less moves if you stack on the left side than if you stack right.

First: In Tetris nuking 4 rows at once gives you a greater score than nuking 1 row 4 times. (Same goes for 2 and 3 rows). As the guy learned the game he would have gone for optimizing his score rather than number of lines nuked. As he got better the habit would have stuck even though it wasn't strictly necessary to play it that way. The way to nuke 4 rows at once is to build up everything in 4 or more rows minus the slot that a 4x1 can fit into vertically (the longest piece in Tetris).

Second: Leaving a gap on the right or left rather than somewhere in the middle is the easiest way to accomplish this. If you can't see that, I'm sorry for you.

Third: This guy chose the right.

-1 ?! The "I'm sorry for you" was meant to be humorous, not snarky or condescending. Honestly, sorry about that. Short answer - he just chose the right-hand side arbitrarily is my guess, it has nothing to do with game mechanics. Wasn't meant to be a snark, seriously I'm not like that! :)

The only similar effect that I've ever experienced was that after few hours of continuous playing of Frozen Bubble, I saw everything insanely blocky. Even quite round shapes were looking like blocks. But that was over within few minutes.

I play tetris a lot, but when doing so, I don't think about it. Tetris is a game that you can play without actually thinking about it. I play ltris, and if I play another variant that has different colors for different shapes, or some other minor difference, I'm completely screwed. In fact, I play tetris in order to be able to think about something else, it employs my hands and I can clearly think about something I want. The game itself is just a complete routine.

(And by the way, I can play tetris completely in my head, without a computer. Just close eyes and imagine playing it. And it actually feels like playing tetris. Shapes randomly appearing at the top, that I try to place as I would in the real game, then they make rows, disappear, and after some time, it gets so fast that it overwhelms me and I lose :-))

I experience this with RockBand and Starcraft, but has anyone had this experience with math?

During exam time I'd often experience hallucinations of equations, but even crazier were the dreams: sometimes I couldn't wake up unless I performed a mathematical operation on some regular object, ie. "what's the Laplace Transform of this blue chesterfield?"

has anyone had this experience with math

Yes, and also computing. Among other things, I've had a dream where I was trying to open files and had to win a race against someone who was replacing them with evil symlinks; several dreams about copy-on-write B+Trees; and a dream where I was a mutex and was trying to keep threads straight except that I got confused when I was locked recursively.

There was a period where I was first learning haskell and trying to solve toy algorithmic problems right before bed. I would imagine I came up with a brilliant solution... and then on waking up a bit realize my solution involved frying eggs, or the way my pillow felt, or something else non-sensical.

It's cool to see that this is a pretty common thing.

When I was a kid I would lay half awake in bed, looking at my alarm clock, interpreting the time as an algebraic expression (mentally filling in the variables) and factoring it. This is when I was in a crazy Japanese math program where I had to factor algebraic expressions every day. Seriously, to this day I can beat physics grad students at factoring. (It was a long time before I learned that factoring was not as useful a skill as I assumed.)

what's the Laplace Transform of this blue chesterfield?


This is the number one way I really grasp some new technique or area in programming.

During awake time, when I'm actively studying/using a new technique, things can get mixed up. I might be absorbing information, but not necesarily using it very efficiently. I just plow on, trying things out, playing around. (Perhaps because most of what I do is self-directed studying, so getting unstuck is left up to myself.)

After days like this, when I sleep, it's fitful. I'll dream of people tormenting me until I can do something in O(n) time, garbage collectors chasing me, whatever. But oddly, often times when I wake up, I have a calm and a better unstanding of whatever it was I was studying. And sometimes, I'll wake up with a start, with a clear solution to a particular problem in mind.

Absolutely! I frequently have dreams in which random objects are represented by equations and I have to solve them. I never actually can, though.

I also have the same exact experience with coding. For example, I'll have to write a for loop in order to perform actions, such as eating cereal.

Oh, God, yes. I was working on learning sysadmin tasks in MVS, if I recall correctly, when I experienced a weird mental inversion on the freeway and saw the trucks as data structures for a short time. Pointers and all.

This happens with me for maths. I even sleep talk about solving maths problem. They say I sound like a professor when I'm solving problems in my sleep.

The title of dreaming in code comes from a story told to the author by one of the programmers working on Chandler.

Happens to me all the time.

My hand instinctively goes to where the quicksave key would be before my tests.

Amazing! Now there's a name for this experience. I was a server admin for Tetrinet2 and naturally had all my friends playing for hours at a time. We all talked about how we'd dream falling blocks, the background music, etc.

Once, when leaving my girlfriend's apartment after a marathon Halo 2 session, I heard a sound in the distance. Wanting to see what happened, I tried to "zoom in." My right thumb even moved to where "B" would have been if I were holding an Xbox controller.

edit: I've also, of course, tried to Ctrl-Z when writing on paper... many times...

I've expected to use a find function in a paper text book. Also, when revising, thinking ohh it fine do not need to note down citation, will just Ctrl - F.

Very annoying when you realise you actually have to go through a lot of skimming instead :(

I was wondering if there was a cell phone effect wherein you thought you heard a cell phone ringtone while listening to music.

Replace music with lawnmower, and I share your experience. Until the mower if off I think a mobile is ringing constantly.

I'm guessing the habit of strafing into a room after playing Doom a bit too much is of the same nature :)

While driving home after a marathon LAN session of DESCENT, I was cut off in traffic. My first instinct was to bank smart missiles of the nearby burger king. My hand even grasped toward the turn signal controls to fire.

I guess that's where my mind decided the smart missile controls would be.

I remember it very clearly, as I've always been slightly unnerved that not only was it a reflex thought, but that I'd actually moved to act on it.

Grand Theft Auto has created a similar experience for me. Every once in a while, I will legitimately feel the instinct to force my vehicle in between other cars or knock them out of the way. After a split second I realize that it's insane, but the feeling is still deeply ingrained in my perception of traffic negotiation.

I have no idea why you got down-voted for this. I've had this after marathon GTA sessions. I imagine it's disturbingly common. The desire fades after a while. I think you're post is in keeping with the theme of the discussion.

All in all, maybe marathon or prolonged gaming sessions aren't the healthiest thing in the world, mentally and physically. Say all you want about hand-eye coordination and I'm no Gaming or Net Nanny or anything but ...

Same here. After playing Nascar 2006 for hours on end one day, I went for a drive and realized I was staying as close to the inside of curves as possible.

I probably got to Target 20 seconds faster that day, but I cut out playing Nascar for extended periods after that.

I've started to have dreams about refactoring code... where to encapsulate imperative parts into functions, what functions to make into objects....

I asked my girlfriend to refactor the dishwasher the other day.

What was wrong with it?

The dishes needed rearranged in order to fit more in there. The original arrangement was never intended to be more than a prototype. I swear.

After a Mass Effect marathon, I started instinctively reaching for "quicksave" before making decisions or initiating dialogue. If only...

I used to call it the "falling sand effect" cause it happened to me after playinmg those flash falling sand games...

I never knew there was a name for this. I experience this both with writing code, and for running a company in general. Sometimes I see myself making strategic business decisions as I drift asleep or in the morning just before waking up.

>They might also see images of falling Tetris shapes at the edges of their visual fields or when they close their eyes.

I get an effect similar to this after playing airsoft, except it looks like BBs flying towards me.

What I find interesting is that it's not all-that common while playing to see BBs flying towards me. It happens several times a game, but only for seconds at a time. So if this is the same effect (not just a different one with similar symptoms), it's not caused simply by an overload or repetition of a particular stimulus.

(It's not just me: my friend said he gets the same effect. But I haven't asked around, so I couldn't say if it's widespread.)

I got this quite a bit from halo 2... It's what convinced me to stop playing competitively. Not worth dreaming about everything in FPS form. It gets weird.

This absolutely happened to me in high school when playing Tetris on my graphing calculator. I'd see the shapes falling as I fell asleep at night. I always thought it was because I felt only semi-conscious for stats class in the morning, and I was returning to that "half awake" state while falling asleep.

Cool to find out it's a real phenomenon.

I always considered that the "Syphon Filter Effect" in honor of this TV spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdrBM-265ns

I don't think that commercial would get OK'd today. A video game that makes you hallucinate shooting innocent bystanders? It's so pre-columbine.

I spent a week in middle school at a barbershop quartet camp. For several days afterwards I heard dominant seventh chords whenever I heard white noise. I especially remember listening to the air coming in through the crack in the car door on the ride home and hearing chord progressions for the entire two hour trip.

During my undergrad WoW days, I'd get this quite a bit.

I got it when I cooked professionally, and would dream about cooking on the line at work.

These days I dream about coding a lot, and occasionally of dealing w startup logistics, which is always funny.

Its a good sign of when I need a day with just a bit less of whatever has been occupying my mind all night

After a day in the ocean, you will often feel the motion of the water as you fall asleep.

Also with roller coasters.

Funny, during work I was listening to a segment in a Radiolab episode about sleep: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2007/05/25

it's the last segment.

I've had this happen to me with Tetris and not batted an eye. When it happened with Nethack, though... I freaked out and didn't play again for a year. That shit was scary.

This happened to me when I played too much D&D one summer. I saw everything in dice rolls for about a week after I took a prolonged break from it.

oh god. i guess there's a bejeweled effect too and another for brain age two's game

I used to experience this, but I called it the "WOW is making me fucked up" effect.

This happened to me the summer of 1993, but in my case it was Mine Sweeper.

After playing a lot of DDR, I saw arrows as moving up my field of vision.

The definitely happens to me if I play too much Geometry Wars.

After FPS marathons, I get visions of running through tunnels before falling sleep.

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