Water Cooler Games
Water Cooler Games served as the web's primary forum for "videogames with an agenda" — coverage of the uses of video games in advertising, politics, education, and other everyday activities, outside the sphere of entertainment.

The site was maintained at watercoolergames.org from 2003-2009, where it was edited by myself and Gonzalo Frasca. It is now archived here in full.
Search Water Cooler Games:  
You are reading an archived version of this article. The original URL was (loading...)
Executioner Tetris
by Ian Bogost February 13, 2009
categories: Political Games

tetrico.jpgIn his book A Theory of Fun (now finally back in print), Raph Koster proposes a hypothetical modification of Tetris in which the blocks are replaced by human beings, Jews being dropped into a gas chamber by their Nazi imprisoners. In the book, the game is a thought experiment meant to illustrate the coupling between a game's abstract mechanics and its fiction or skin. I've elsewhere discussed this notion under the name "tight coupling."

As Raph notes today, a Brazilian team, inspired by the idea from the book has realized the game as Calabouço Tétrico. The result features a "generic" executioner rather than the image of a concentration camp, but the result is effectively disturbing, as it is intended to be. It might be the sound design that accomplishes much of that effect, but the entire result is worth seeing, not for enjoyment but as a way to understand better the way basic game mechanics can be altered by means of the contexts of their presentation.

Comments (2)

At The Croopier we made a similar version of the Tetris game, as a commentary to the news visual treatment of the arrival of illegal inmigration to South Europe:

http://www.croopier.com/oo/node/7

The tetric order was found on the newspaper photograph (http://www.elpais.com/fotogaleria/Tragica/llegada/cayuco/Gomera/5638-1/elpgal/) showing the accumulation of bodies at the bottom of a boat. Our Tetris pieces do not disappear, but are rather accumulated. With this game dynamics, we pursued to show the ineffectiveness of actual illegal inmigration policies.

Regards,
Abelardo / The Croopier

*shudder* being Jewish (Sephardic, but still), this game, even though it wasn't a concentration camp, is extremely disturbing. The screams when you made a line caused me to stop playing. Ugh, now I need to watch something funny to get the ick out of my head...

GiovannixSeren on June 10, 2009 3:17 AM

 

blog
books
games
writing
photography
teaching
speaking
recent stuff
resources
popular
favorites