Ornamental Tetris game

Creating games is an art itself and quite a complex one : you have to invent a story, a visual universe, internal rules to make the game balanced but also intriguing. To do so, you have to rely on mathematics, but also on the psychology of human brain. When you a create a game, you use several intellectual faculties at the same time.

The relationship between creating games and ornaments is quite fascinating.

I think particularly about one specific game : probably one of the simplest still the most addictive one invented by a Russian engineer, Alexej Pajitnov in the eighties: the Tetris game.

I remember when my parents, engineers themselves installed for the first time a computer at home. It was in the middle of the nineties. It is funny now to recall that up until then computers didn’t have any role in home activities. Anyhow, from then on, I often saw my father stuck in front the computer for hours playing Tetris. It was a bit annoying, but soon afterwords, I understood his addiction when I tried it out myself. It’s funny, I’ve never though about it before, but now the link is so obvious. It was on the same computer which was the most often used to play Tetris and sometimes to work that I began to design my first kelim carpets. I used to go the the faculty of applied arts where an old lady hosted me in her workshops and thought me how to weave kelims. There was a drawing program on the computer, a very simple one which had nothing to do with tho sophisticated photoshop… And I was so fascinated by the idea that I can create immaterial patterns on a grid based screen by colouring one by one the little squares. I carefully saved them on floppies and kept them until it was still possible to use them… This fascination for the resemblance between the grid based kelim ornaments and the grid based and later on pixel based computer design has been following me until today.

Alexej and my father must have had more than one common points : they were thinking about the world and engineer-philosophers : fascinated by connections and correspondences making the world function in the context of Nature as well as of Society. And being able to model these connections through mathematics gave them satisfaction and excitement.

There is comic book about Tetris published in 2016 created by Box Brown in which Alexej’s concept of games is resumed very nicely. It says that game is a perfect convergence between human beings and technology. It is inspired by human experience physically, mentally and emotionally. Puzzles are metaphors for human thinking, they reflect society and create models of thinking. They can contribute to awaking consciousness. They stimulate different faculties at the same time and provoke different emotions such as challenge, reward, discovery, frustration, satisfaction… I think that this description grabbed my attention because I was thinking exactly the same thing about creating ornaments. It is something I deal with more in detail in ‘OrnaMental Maps’.

Tetris by the way was inspired by a wooden puzzle game : a material one. So, I thought that it might be a good idea to use Tetris’s basic idea to recreate a material a game and to bring back into it a sensational aspect and to invent new rules for it.

It you are looking for an complex activity for a creative workshop, you can get inspired by this game so I will present it to you as such.

I have created two prototypes for this game. I’ve kept the traditional four square based construction elements of the Tetris to use them as a direct reference to Alexej, the game’s inventor, but feel free invent new shapes: the important is that you have to be able to slot the shapes into each other :

The whole game will be designed as an ornament, so the first step is to choose you patterns. You can create your ornaments manually, but it can be also nice to reuse or, so-to-say, recycle already existing ornaments. It might be an occasion to make discover different visual universes of different cultures through ornaments. But basically, you can transform into ornament anything you want : a personal object, a detail from a photo or a painting, a traffic sign and so on.

If you are not comfortable with drawing, it’s not a problem either because you have plenty of digital tools at your disposal. I will show you soon different ways to create ornaments out of anything, but now let’s concentrate on our game.

For which I have chosen ornaments that I already had in my collection. Some of them created by myself, while others were simply created of images I found on the internet and which I transformed into repetitive patterns.

When you choose the images, pay attention that the pattern should be free of copyright, especially if you intend to exhibit the artwork game you’ll create in public. You’ll find a list of freely reusable image sources in the video’s description.

If you animate a workshop, you might work with people or children from different origins and, as you will see, this game celebrates diversity and the peaceful and fruitful collaboration between people with very different cultural, social or ethnic background. So you may encourage people to choose patterns which in one way or in another is related to their personal story or their origins. For this piece I’ve chosen Islamic patterns, Peruvian ornaments, details from African wax textile design, black and white op-art patterns and animal prints used mostly in contemporary fashion design. The goal of the game will be to create something symbolical where all these elements coming from different cultural areas will constitute together a new universe, a place of ‘living together’ represented by the board:

So, first you create patterns, then you create shapes but the funniest part is still to come! Now you will invent the rules. These little shapes offers you infinite possibilities to invent new games. You can play against the game or against each other our both at the same time. The important thing is that you enjoy creation, invention and game at the same time. And you can also model social behaviors and educate with these games.

Let’s see a few ideas to invent rules for this game! The simplest one fist that you can play with small children: we’ve created an ornament by putting next to each other similar ornaments:

Here, we have created a three dimensional and material artwork based on the principle of the falling shapes of the Tetris game:

Here, the rules are getting a bit more complicated: players have to create paths to reach the other edge of the board. Each one of the fours players tries to prevent that the others manage to do so. But when they insert their shapes they have to touch another one that they place previously:

To make the game more complicate and more educative you can invent additional rules, such as trying to fill out the space as much as it’s possible. In this way, players play against each other pour also with each other. It’s a nice metaphor of a collaborative still individual social behavior.

Now, it’s your turn to play. Be inventive and enjoy !

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