Tetris in Tel Aviv: can ‘gamifying’ cities help improve them – or is it all just PR?

You can play Snake on a London fountain, Battleship across the river Thames and ‘Pac-Manhattan’ on the grid of New York City’s streets – but some game developers are thinking seriously about how to connect citizens with their cities

Every Thursday evening, Tel Aviv’s city hall is transformed. The windows light up, each becoming a “pixel” on a giant screen measuring 3,000 square metres. A pair of 1.5 metre joysticks is installed outside in Rabin Square; whoever gets there first can play what is probably the world’s biggest game of Tetris.

The stunt is designed to draw attention to the upcoming DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival, which starts later this month. While admittedly fun, and a good advertisement for the innovation festival, the giant game – which also becomes Snake or Pong at different times – is (somewhat ironically) not particularly innovative. Back in 2001, Project Blinkenlights lit up Haus des Lehrers in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, allowing people to use their Nokia handsets to play Pong. Since them, students at Brown, MIT and Kiel have pulled similar stunts. You can even play Snake on the fountains in London’s Granary Square.

Another beautiful day to play Monopoly up at Trafalgar Square @londongamesfest #LGFmonopoly pic.twitter.com/U9SzNadcS9

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