Frank Lee turning a skyscraper into a video game?



Confused? Don’t be. This is exactly what Frank Lee, professor and co-founder of Drexel’s video game design program, just achieved. Lee and his team turned the Cicra Center, a 29-story skyscraper in Philadelphia, into an interactive video game. Pong, to be specific. The gigantic “display” of this game is made up of 1,514 LEDs in a 20 by 23 grid. As players took turns at the controller, the building’s  437-foot face turned into the biggest interactive video game in history.

“The idea for the project came to me when I was driving down I-76,” says Lee. “As the sun was going down, I saw the sparkly lights at the Cira Centre. In my mind, I saw Tetris shapes falling down. That was the genesis of trying to create a game using the Cicra Centre lights.”


Implementing his dream took him five more years, four of which were spent lobbying for permission. At the start, Frank Lee had no contacts whatsoever in said building, much less the people who controlled it.

Eventually, four years and numerous refusals later, he managed to score a meeting with Gerald Sweeny, the CEO of the Brandywine Trust, and got the green light. The rest is history. Lee and his team wrote software to turn the building’s lights into a display of sorts. End result: a game of Pong 29 stories high and a crowd to match.  


According to Yahoo News, about 1,000 people entered a lottery to play. Darren Davis, 17, was one of the first people to grab the joystick in front of the Cira Centre.

Davis said: “To be honest, taking my hands on the joystick, it was pretty amazing. I actually really liked it… It definitely is inspiration to make me want to top this, because I know I can.”

Our hope? That eventually, something like this will make its way to Sri Lanka – wouldn’t it be epic to play carom on a skyscraper? 


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