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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

Discussion (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.

rachelsoderberg profile image
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

diekmrcoin 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 on

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

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

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

diekmrcoin profile image


taylorfraley profile image
Taylor Fraley

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 on

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.

diekmrcoin 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 🤷‍♂️

nicolus profile image
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.

nektro profile image
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?!

ozzyogkush profile image
Derek Rosenzweig

At my first job out of college I ended up working on a web app that correlated responses in medical surveys. I vividly remember dreaming about those crosstab data displays (how one question's responses related to another's) when I was trying to get it working right. This was in 2011 or 2012 maybe.

rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

Not as a developer, no, but I have had a similar thing happen when I was a wee 20 year old playing World of Warcraft 16 hours a day. When I was sleeping I'd dream that I was in the game playing still, and when I was out in the "real world" I would try to relate everything to WoW.

Not my proudest years, but they were sure fun haha

raullarosa_ profile image
La Rosa ✈️

I spoke a great amount about code and databases during my sleep while I was on vacation with a friend. It was a stressful time at work so I hope it was just a temporary reaction to that. At least no one else has mentioned it since.

sherloxtv profile image
Pierre Cavin

I see a lot of people talking about dreaming of code etc ...

I've had a few experiences like those, but the most striking one that happened is the following:

Some time ago now, I was with my girlfriend and we were having sex. I kinda hyperventilated at some point, and I got pulled in some kind of astral state of consciousness (I hadn't taken any drugs for the record), where every thought I had, every movement I made and everything happening around me was appearing to me as lines of code. Like I saw through the matrix somehow.

I've had a few psychedelics experience since then, but this one remains in my top even tho I wasn't on the influence of anything.

Would be interested to know if anyone ever had some kind of similar experience ?

somedood profile image
Basti Ortiz

My life changed when I learned HTML...

Since then, all I could see are <div>s. I literally see box models everywhere now. For example, I imagine piano keys as left-floated <div>s.

overlordex3 profile image
Exequiel Beker

On embedded systems, memory could be short for some things, or you can run out of it very quickly. A couple months ago, a very common practice at my office was to reorder stacks, variables and stuff to fit on 64kb memory. It was so stressful! On the night, I dreamed about it or thinked every time a new product version release came.

havarem profile image
André Jacques

When I was in my first year as Computer Science Engineering at the University, I had a lot of electric-related class where sinusoids were everywhere. I started dreaming of driving cars through sine pathways around other cars, realizing that sound was the sum of different sine waves, the wires on my desks (mouse, power cord, etc) were also some Fourier signals compose of different sine waves. That was crazy.

jsn1nj4 profile image
Elliot Derhay

Strangely enough, I don't know if I've experienced this.

But I do naturally try to fit/stack things like boxes in a closet and dishes in/around the sink in a space-saving manner.

And as I finished the above sentence, I also realized that I did, in fact, use to play a ton of Tetris on my phone. Not sure how much influence that has had on how I organize, but I guess it could be a factor.

puritanic profile image
Darkø Tasevski

Fixed one bug, that bugged me for a long time, in a dream...

andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

Teddy Ruxpin theme song while thinking about debugging complex SQL queries

sauloco profile image
Saulo Vargas

What about Tetris Effect with Netflix marathons or videogames? 😂

kubukoz profile image
Jakub Kozłowski

Y'all wrong, this is the Bleeding Effect! #assassinscreed

theodesp profile image
Theofanis Despoudis

I thought yo were talking about the game!

presto412 profile image
Priyansh Jain

Irrelevant, but

"Cupcake Match"

Like if you got the reference