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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Describe Your Tetris Effect

The Tetris Effect occurs when people devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images, and dreams. It takes its name from the video game Tetris.

People who played Tetris for a prolonged amount of time could find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf, the buildings on a street, or hallucinating pieces being generated and falling into place on an invisible layout. In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of habit. They might also dream about falling tetrominos when drifting off to sleep or see images of falling tetrominos at the edges of their visual fields or when they close their eyes. In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hypnagogic imagery.

So do you experience Tetris Effect in your life as a software developer? I know I do. Share!ter

Top comments (45)

_morgan_adams_ profile image

Sometimes I'm so deep in my flow that when I go to sleep, I still dream in code. Literally. I find bugs, wake up thinking that can't be right so I go and check. Sure enough... bug. I fix it, and get back to sleep.

andersjr1984 profile image

I have been waking up in the middle of the night with creative fixes to problems that I encounter in React. I don't know if it is healthy, but I have fixed a quite a few problems that I have encountered.

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Rachel Soderberg

I didn't realize this counted as the Tetris effect! I've never been asleep and thought in code, but it's not uncommon for me to be doing something trivial like showering or falling asleep and suddenly be hit with the solution to a problem I've been pondering for the last workday or two.

_morgan_adams_ profile image

It's definitely a useful manifestation of it :D

diek profile image

I dream with bugs that don't even exist!

mrbenj profile image
Ben Junya


Here's my personal formula for getting into "flow state" or "Tetris effect."

  • Have a problem to solve with code
  • Listen to one of the following:
    • Video game music (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Undertale/Deltarune, something good)
    • J-pop (vocaloid stuff is my jam)
    • Anything future funk, future bass, electro-swing, etc.
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • A container of water nearby
  • (optional) coffee or some light stimulant

Once the stage is set, my mind does the following:

  • What are the first few steps to solve this issue? Do I start by playing detective? Maybe I start writing new module? How about I write a test to account for this bug and the desired outcome?
  • Start working on step 1. If step 2 is already established, do step 2.
  • ONLY focus on accomplishing the task at hand. Nothing else matters. Facebook, Twitter, email, texts, and other notifications can all just go away.
  • Continue until the task is done.
  • Move the task to the CI build, next step, whatever.
  • Grab the next thing to fix.
  • Start over again. What's step 1? Find step one, execute, repeat.

Suddenly, 4 hours pass, and I'll feel awesome :).

Hope this helps!

fjo_costa profile image
Fernando Costa

Nothing like Sephiroth theme to pump yourself!

overlordex3 profile image
Exequiel Beker • Edited

Or the Orphan theme (Nascent Requiem), from FFXIII!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

The book Algorithms to Live By is definitely relevant in this conversation.

diek profile image


weeklytyped profile image
Weekly Typed

I just bought the audiobook version yesterday, and I'm loving it.

jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Thanks for sharing, going on my reading list.

niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

Since I started rock-climbing, I see more holds and nudges in everyday-life.

I dreamt of Angular a couple of times. Funny thing is I have no idea about Angular and never used it.

I was regularly afraid of being shot on the street during "Narcos"-binges.

dance_nguyen profile image
Dan N • Edited

The one that pops into my mind first is that I now use double slashes '//' everywhere to mark any comment or side note I take, handwritten or not. First few times it happened, it was on accident, but I decided to stick with it.

diek profile image

My tetris effect is trying to parallelize almost everything i do in my life, if i want a coffee and a sandwitch i cannot stay infront the coffee machine or the toaster waiting them to finish, i often think how to use efficiently the waiting times. Call me crazy xD

cecilelebleu profile image
Cécile Lebleu

Good one! In those very short free moments, I like to stretch. Most us devs are under-exercising anyway, so it’s usually worth it. Stretching the back, wrists, arms, neck, and doing some quick strength exercises like squats can really help energize me when I’m waiting for the water to boil! And if you want to go the extra-nerd way, you could count repetitions in binary or awkward percentages. 0 squat, 1 squat, 10 squat, 11 squat, 100 squat, 101 squat, 110 squat... occupies both brain and body while waiting.

ryaninvents profile image
Ryan Kennedy

Sometimes after I've spent a few hours gardening, I'll get little flashes of plants when I close my eyes. I'll see them too as I'm falling asleep; it's very peaceful. When I see generative adversarial network (GAN) art, it strikes me as very similar to these "flashes".

I'm no psychologist, but I wonder if it's related to the fact that I've been essentially running pattern-matching on leaf-shaped inputs. I'd like to know if this effect has been formally studied, as well as whether or not these are technically hallucinations.

sunnysingh profile image
Sunny Singh

Thinking about it more now, Tetris is the perfect analogy for any accomplishment or failure in life. It feels really good to finish something (matching a row of shapes in Tetris) and the more that you do it, the easier it gets. But sometimes you just need a redo and fresh start after failing so many times, but all those failures will help you do better the next time.

Having said that, I suck at Tetris but am decent at code so 🤷‍♂️

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Nicolas Bailly

It's not only Tetris. Other notorious examples are Sim City, where you start seeing green/Yellow/Blue squares and roads when you close your eyes, and rhythm games (Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania IIDX, Pop'n Music, Rockband...) where you see notes scrolling in front of your eyes even when not playing the game.

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

DOOM. The number of dreams I used to have where I'd run down a corridor to the shop, then run down the aisles, then run back down another corridor to see my friend...

All doors took two or three attempts to get through with me missing the entrance and grunting.

Good times.

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Meghan (she/her)

Ever since becoming good at programming, I can no longer look at the world and not feel like this picture..


moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

It was a long time ago, so probably DOOM II. I didn't play the first one until after the second, because I always thought it seemed such a pointless game and didn't understand why anyone would like it... until I gave in.

dbolli profile image
Derek Bolli

I've dreamt in xml when I've worked on projects where xml was the data format. Not that relaxing or useful in my experience. Given that sleep and dreaming has a human database defrag and reorg function, mostly I've woken up with new ideas and approaches which I've eagerly written down to try out later after breakfast and coffee.

asaaki profile image
Christoph Grabo

Nine of ten voices in my head arguing about if I should post it or not. The tenth hums it anyway:

Tetris theme
Tetris theme [youtube]

antonfrattaroli profile image
Anton Frattaroli

I was thinking yesterday: Annual home maintenance? I'd rather it be an event driven architecture than a scheduled job.

Turns out the appliance in question does have an add-on sensor that will alert you with their app.

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Andy Lamb

When I first started to code as a child I learnt Visual Basic. No internet or other programmers around, so I used books, trial-and-error, and alot of time. I remember 'thinking' in if-statements and other VB constructs when doing non-coding activities. It was very bizarre and I can't help wondering how it influenced my childhood brain development?!