How playing video games all day affects my visual field (The Trifecta Tetris Effect)

by phil on Friday Aug 11, 2006 6:11 PM

The Tetris effect is the observed feeling of people who play Tetris for hours and hours, and then start dreaming of falling blocks as they go to bed.

So, being a video game tester, you can imagine the kind of Tetris effect I get. I've been on the same game for two months now, playing it, for the most part, day-in and day-out. Usually when we "play" the game, it's to do a stress test. A stress test involves picking out a component of the game, and just butchering it to death. For example, The Guild 2 has a political system, which involves running for office. I can't count how many times in a given day, one person on our team says some permutation of the following sentence to the other: "did you get office?"

When we went out to lunch today, someone briefly talked about the US political system, about mid-term elections, and who is going to get office, and the Tetris effect came over me. I immediately started seeing the buttons and screens of the game, and saw Joe Lieberman trying to right-click his way into the office of President. My visual field partly turned into a video game, as if I were experiencing deja vu.

Working in QA, there's actually three layers of a Tetris effect at play. First, there's the natural effect that any video game has—almost every video game is about endless repetition with slight variation until mastery. The second layer is the stress testing I mentioned above. The third layer is the way that video game testing interacts with the repetitiveness of office conversations. At Aspyr, we have the catch-phrase "bug it" or "put it in the database" as an imperative to file a report about a problem in the game. Any time someone mention any words related to bugs or a database, immediately my mind and body kicks into motion as if I were filing for work.

I've noticed this at other workplaces as well. Three-letter abbreviations become God, such as TPS reports. "Something-something-something TPS reports." "So-and-so-TPS reports-so-and-so." The workplace conversations become almost like techno, with a guaranteed beat of someone hitting some combination of words related to those damned TPS reports. The corporate world, with its efficient division of labor, naturally becomes this way.

Repetition has been on my mind a lot lately. I wonder why...

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