Drexel professor in talks with Comcast Center to host next video game

Comcast Center. Credit: Wiki Commons
Comcast Center. Credit: Wiki Commons

Yeah, Cira Centre is cool. But they can go bigger.

Drexel professor Frank Lee said Wednesday that he is in talks with Comcast about bringing the “War of Worlds” classic arcade game to the sparkling, USB drive-shaped skyscraper on JFK Boulevard.

“I sort of pitched an idea, and they liked it,” he said.

As a prelude to Philly Tech Week, Drexel University’s Frank Lee will again adapt an arcade game to fit on the facade of the 29-story Cira Centre in University City on April 4. But unlike last year, the game is Tetris, not Pong, and it will occupy both sides of the skyscraper.

Pong, which was the first classic video game conformed to the unique LED-lighted surface of the dark-colored structure, set a Guinness World Record for the “Largest Architectural Video Game Display.” This year’s game would double the square-footage, and theoretically, set a new world record.

But for a grander scale, Lee wants to use the digital HD display inside the Comcast Center’s lobby and the the tower’s glimmering glass as part of a recreation of the space-invader arcade classic “War of the Worlds.

“And that’s something that I may pursue with them,” he said, “if they want to do it and if I want to move forward with it.”

Lee, a co-founder of Drexel’s game design program, said the original idea to play a video game on a skyscraper started with Tetris.

“The idea,” he said, “came when I was driving on I-76. It was toward the evening, I saw the sparking lights of the Cira Centre, and in my mind’s eye, I saw Tetris shapes.”

Overall, the idea wasn’t just to make a big game of Tetris — although that’s still cool — but to shake off a generation-wide technological isolation: to tear out earphones and pull heads away from tiny glowing screens.

“This was my effort to bring back a shared moment,” he said.

Now imagine every skyscraper in Philadelphia participating in one giant, grand-scale video game.

“That’s it,” Lee said.


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