Tetris effect

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Screenshot of a tetromino game. People who play video puzzle games like this for a long time may see moving images like this at the edges of their visual fields, when they close their eyes, or when they are drifting off to sleep.

The Tetris effect is the ability of an activity to which people devote sufficient time and attention to begin overshadowing their thoughts, mental images, and dreams. It is named after the video game Tetris. In the game a player rotates and moves different falling tetrominoes, or shapes made up of four square blocks. If the player can arrange the shapes so there are complete horizontal lines of blocks without any gaps, those lines are eliminated. The object of the game is to eliminate as many lines as possible before the shapes fill the screen.

People who play Tetris for a long time might then find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf or the buildings on a street.[1] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of habit.

They might also see images of falling Tetris shapes at the edges of their visual fields or when they close their eyes.[1] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hallucination.

They might also dream about falling Tetris shapes when drifting off to sleep.[2] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hypnagogic imagery.


[edit] Other examples

The Tetris effect can occur with other video games,[3] with any prolonged visual task (such as classifying cells on microscope slides, weeding, picking fruit, flipping burgers, or even playing chess), and in other sensory modalities. For example, there is the tendency for a catchy tune to play out unbidden in one's mind (an "earworm"). In kinesthesis, a person newly on land after spending long periods at sea may move with an unbidden rocking motion, having become accustomed to the ship making such movements (known as sea legs or mal de debarquement). Computer programmers and developers sometimes have similar experiences, and report dreaming about code when they sleep at night, and return to work the next day feeling like they had never left.

[edit] Place in memory

Stickgold et al. (2000) have proposed that Tetris imagery is a separate form of memory, likely related to procedural memory. This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day, despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.[2]

[edit] History of the term

According to Earling (1996),[1] one of the first references to the term is by Garth Kidd in February, 1996.[4] Kidd described "after-images of the game for up to days afterwards" and "a tendency to identify everything in the world as being made of four squares and attempt to determine 'where it fits in'". Kidd attributed the origin of the term to computer-game players from Adelaide, Australia.

[edit] In popular culture

The Tetris effect appears in several examples of popular culture. For example, the ability of Tetris to dominate one's thoughts was parodied in the cartoon The Simpsons. In the episode "Strong Arms of the Ma", Homer Simpson uses his Tetris skills to fit several hundred dollars' worth of garage sale items in his sedan. Similarly, in the episode "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words", Lisa's recent obsession with crosswords causes her to mentally arrange words around her into a crossword grid. The comic Perry Bible Fellowship made light of the Tetris effect in the strip entitled "Game Boy". The ability of Tetris to dominate one's dreams appeared in a cartoon on a t-shirt in 2007[5] and in cartoons in 2005[6] and in 2007.[7]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Earling, A. (1996, March 21-28). The Tetris Effect: Do computer games fry your brain? "Philadelphia City Paper [1]
  2. ^ a b Stickgold, R., Malia, A., Maguire, D., Roddenberry, D., & O'Connor, M. (2000). Replaying the game: Hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics. Science 290: 350-353. (free abstract) [2]
  3. ^ Terdiman, D. (January 11, 2005). Real World Doesn't Use a Joystick Wired [3]
  4. ^ Kidd, G. (1996). Possible future risk of virtual reality. The RISKS Digest: Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems 17(78) [4]
  5. ^ "T-shirt image". http://www.huzzahgoods.com/DreamsProduct.gif. Retrieved on 2008-02-02. 
  6. ^ "Cartoon". http://dsandler.org/wp/archives/2005/07/21/tetris. Retrieved on 2008-02-04. 
  7. ^ "Cartoon". http://pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF206-Game_Boy.gif. Retrieved on 2008-02-19. 

[edit] External links

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