Tetris on the Cira Centre Tomorrow Night

Cira Centre PongTo kick off this year’s Philly Tech Week, Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust have partnered to bring another mega-size video game, Tetris, to the exterior of the iconic Cira Centre next to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. It’s too late to enter the lottery for a chance to actually play, but everyone will be able to watch as the game takes over both sides of the angular tower tomorrow evening.

During Tech Week last year, lucky players stationed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art got to play Pong on the north side of the building. That game got into the Guiness Book of World Records for “Largest Architectural Video Game Display”: it utilized 460 already installed LEDs over 59,800 square feet of the tower’s north side. This year’s game is set to top that: players will use both the north and south sides of the building to play simultaneously—against each other or cooperatively—with one set of players stationed at Eakins Oval outside the Art Museum, and the other at Drexel.


Frank Lee, a Drexel professor who co-founded the university’s highly regarded game design program in 2008, has been the driving force behind both this year’s and last year’s events. It hasn’t been simple. Fast Company reported last year that it took Lee some time to get Brandywine Realty Trust, which developed and owns the glassy 29-story Cira Centre, behind the project:

The idea fell on deaf ears until 2010, when [Lee] managed to get in touch with a senior vice president at the company. He showed off concept sketches of what Pong and Tetris would look like on the side of the building, and even got permission to test the lights out. Lee's request to proceed with the project was rebuffed by the executive, who wondered why anyone would care to see such an old game played in gargantuan pixels on the side of the Cira Center.

But thankfully, Lee didn’t give up:

 Through connections he had at Drexel and at Technically Media, the company that runs Philly Tech Week, Lee sought a one-on-one meeting with Brandywine CEO Jerry Sweeney. Each request was rebuffed, but Lee kept asking.

"After a four-and-a-half-year lobbying effort, I got an email in November from Jerry saying, 'I appreciate your persistence. Would you like to meet and talk?'"

From there on out, Lee told Fast Company, Brandywine was “as helpful as you would ever want them to be.”

This year’s event, which was originally scheduled for today but postponed until tomorrow due to weather, is called the “Arcade at the Oval” and will also feature live performances, a beer garden, 10 or more food trucks, and an array of games from local developers. Detailed info is available here.

Image: Technical.ly Philly

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