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The Tetris Effect

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When the game shows up in your Real Life.

"One of the first formal studies of the phenomenon was at Harvard Medical School in the year 2000. Participants played the game for seven hours each, spread over the course of three days. Remarkably, 63% of the participants - almost two thirds - reported seeing imagery from the game hours after they finished playing."
Announcement trailer for Tetris Effect (2018)

You've been playing a game for so long that you start seeing it everywhere outside the game.

The game follows you. Every time you stop playing, you feel like you still have some pending business. You're seeing passwords in your Alpha-Bits. You try to power-slide on the drive to class. Clouds are looking suspiciously like troop formations to you. You may even begin to dream about tetris blocks and playing cards. The game is the only thing you can think about, even, and especially when you should be concentrating on other things.

Don't feel bad. It's happened to the best of us. The Tetris Effect — when a game permeates every aspect of your life. Named after the original, Tetris, which has superimposed itself on more ceiling tiles and eyelids than any other video game ever.

An amusing variant can occur if you've got two such intrusive games (or two characters in the same game — even worse if they both have good points) at once, and have to split your time between them. Once they start intermingling in your head, the result can be anything from laugh-out-loud ridiculous to seriously creepy.


Extreme cases lead players to say: "I Know Mortal Kombat!"

There are as many examples as there are gamers — which is why this trope neither needs nor wants specific ones. If you'd like to discuss yours, might we suggest our fine forums.

This effect is likely due to the process your brain is thought to undergo when learning a new skill through repetition. In order to separate the 'noise' of non-repeating activities from the 'signal' of activities which will need to be performed frequently, and should thus be optimized for recall and performance (within procedural memory/Muscle Memory), the brain relies upon consistent manual repetition of an activity to identify the activity as a candidate for optimization (thus, 'practice makes perfect'). During this process, activity in the brain of the same sort generated by the undertaking of the activity is observable, as the brain undertakes to optimize the patterns of behaviour within the given activity. This can result in the sometimes distracting and disconcerting organization of other aspects of Real Life according to the patterns of a game skill in the process of being optimized - and thus, the specific symptoms of The Tetris Effect.


This trope can drive one to insanity, especially when combined with the game music also being stuck in your head.

On an interesting note, TV Tropes can have this effect, as evidenced by this page.

Compare Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality.

This is not about games that keep you playing until three in the morning, although most examples of this will be a result of that. That trope is Just One More Level!.

Not to Be Confused with the official Tetris game titled Tetris Effect, though this trope is the reason for the name.

Well-known Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Valve Games 
Thanks to Valve Software's addictive games, the entirety of the games by them are consolidated HERE! (No, not there, but here.)
  • How many Left 4 Dead players steer clear of the sound of crying, and twitch when they hear a cough or see someone wearing a hoodie?
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Many are proud of obtaining rare, silly hats in real life, and attempting to trade them for other hats.
    • Some Spy players may start to think that human backs could really use a knife in them. On the other hand, players of other classes may start identifying suspicious Spy-like behavior among random passerbys.
    • Snipers will find themselves scanning roofs for others of their ilk.
    • Beware of auditory hallucinations: spies decloaking, sentries beeping, dummkopfs bleating "MEDIIIC!"...
    • Ever feel like not standing still when you're outside? Want to just move around randomly. Just in case of snipers.
    • How many Soldier mains here have picked up another FPS and immediately tried rocket jumping?
  • Half-Life gives us the Barnacle, which not only has people looking for its long "tongues" in other games, but can and does make one paranoid when you see things-that-look-like-tongues hanging from ceilings.
    • And oh dear god, one mustn't forget the headcrabs.
  • Portal players frequently find themselves speculating what they would do with an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device in real life. Now you're thinking with portals!
    • Even if you've never played the game, it's still entirely possible for you to go through this. After all, who wouldn't want a real life Portal gun?
    • Try wondering what would happen if you put portals on roofs in a suburb, as a slanted spot for a puzzle, then realizing that it's the wrong surface for portals because it has shingles, and it isn't white and smooth.
    • It gets worse. "Okay, so I just arrived at my (school/work/insane asylum) and I need to get to my (class/office/padded cell) fast. I could just walk there, but I'm in a rush and that would take too long. I could run faster, I guess, or put a portal over there and my other one there and DAMMIT."
    • Ever looked around, and seen an oddly portal-shaped part of a wall that is more white than the rest of the entire area and thought, "Oh, I found the portalable wall, now I can escape this level."
    • Cracked has an entire article on this. The author got Portal 2 stuck in his head, then was heartened to meet a guy who was stuck on Tetris.

    Driving Game 
  • Try to avoid driving immediately after playing Mario Kart. It's not just the temptation to shoot Koopa shells at passing cars that you should be worried about...
    • Immediately, heck, if you've ever played Super Mario Kart, when driving a motorized vehicle you need to keep in mind at all times that you don't actually have a jump button.
  • F-Zero GX has your racer regularly going at speeds greater than 1000 km/h. And the game allows you to put it in a first-person perspective and is compatible with a gaming wheel and pedals. Any speed less than 70 mph is going to seem ridiculously slow if you just got done playing an hour or two of the game.
  • The Burnout games, which feature realistic graphics and reward the player for dangerous feats like driving on the wrong side of the road, tailgating, and near-misses, may be the most egregious offender. They should really come with a warning not to attempt to operate a real motor vehicle immediately after playing. Unfortunately they don't.
  • Crazy Taxi is a lesser offender - unless your radio starts playing anything by The Offspring or Bad Religion.
  • Just because Gran Turismo prides itself on being a realistic racing sim doesn't make it any less guilty of this trope than the others on this list. If anything, the realism (and the presence of street-legal cars like the one you might own in Real Life) just makes it even more tempting to cut over a grass curb or drift around a turn at high-speed on the way to work. Don't Try This at Home, folks!
  • More than any of the above examples, you'll probably want to avoid driving for a while after playing Carmageddon , unless going to jail is something you plan on doing.

     4 X 
  • Galactic Civilizations II: referenced in one notable Let's Play that crossed this over with Earth-Shattering Kaboom and The All-Solving Hammer.
    It's my answer to everything. How did I try to mend relations with the Terrans? I destroyed a sun. How did I vanquish the Dread Lords? I destroyed their sun. How did I tackle the volatile Drengin? Destroyed all their suns. Drath relations dodgy? Gear up to destroy some suns.
    It was spreading to real life, too. Deputy Editor Tim called just now to ask how this diary was coming along, and all I could say was "It's taking a while. Couldn't we just destroy the sun?"
  • Playing any of the grand strategy games by Paradox Interactive for long enough may typically warp your perception of diplomacy. An individual's opinion of you may become a variable mental value. Did you offend someone that you want to respect you? "I should send them $20-50."
    • The subreddit /r/ParadoxPolitics is dedicated to posting links to articles about real world political and diplomatic events with a title describing those events in terms of Paradox game mechanics.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom made older games feel the urge to strafe around real-world corners.
    • Numerous stories tell of people stuck at closed doors searching for a space bar to press to open it.
    • Another story tells of a gamer that opened a door, peered, quickly strafed and backed and muttered something about waiting there till the janitor shows so he can shoot her and proceed. Then he snapped back to his senses and asked not to tell anyone.
  • Play Modern Warfare 2 and be scared shitless whenever you hear a plane in fear that it's a Harrier, or start diving into cover whenever you hear a low series of metallic clinks because you think that the grenade proximity alarm has gone off.
  • BioShock. Who plays this for a few hours and then is not scared shitless every time they hear footsteps or metallic noises? Not to mention turning around after staring at something for a few seconds. Not to mention imagining the outside as underwater on occasion. No less hearing the words "Would You Kindly?" by other people.
  • One could argue that any FPS genre game (any WASD key game in general, actually) will forever alter your hand's natural position on the keyboard.
  • Playing The Darkness for very long will have you scanning your surroundings for light sources everywhere you go, just try to remember not to break all of them.
  • Playing No One Lives Forever will cause you to examine any room you walk into for security cameras and then think up ways to defeat or evade them.
  • Players of Borderlands 2 who picked Zer0 as their character / drift in and out of haiku / without noticing.
  • Fans of shooters of any kind will start seeing an aiming reticle overlaying their vision in real life.
  • Try playing Alien vs. Predator for a few hours without starting to be afraid of every air shimmer (Predator cloak), a woodpecker (the sounds it makes when pecking are eerily similar to a Predator growl), beeping sound (Space Marine motion detector), or dark spaces in general. In fact, playing as the Alien is the least scary part of the game.
  • Play any Serious Sam game for any length of time, and you WILL start mistaking the whine of your computer's cooling fan for the screaming of a Beheaded Kamikaze.
  • Spend too much time playing Killing Floor, and the sound of a girl crying will make you start looking for the Siren. You may also start speaking with an English accent.
  • Playing Descent for too long in one sitting may cause you to hear the "homing missile locked on" sound quietly in the background long after you've closed the game.
  • Going outside after a lot of GoldenEye will make you want to shoot out security cameras.
  • Titanfall may inspire you to instinctively assess architecture for chain-Wall Run paths.
  • Players of Rainbow Six: Siege often find themselves searching for and wanting to take out security cameras as is so important in game.
  • Anyone who has been on a serious Payday 2 bender will try to not bump into security guards or stay still in front of security cameras, as even when you don't wear your masks, this causes guards to spot you and sound the alarm. That, and looking for CCTV and security guards become a second nature.

    Miscellaneous Games 
  • When playing most games with button prompts for too long, those prompts start to appear in real life as well.
  • When players play Duet for too long, they start to see the spinning pair of orbs dodging blocks whenever they close their eyes. In the worst cases, the hypnotic music by Tim Shiel can be heard, too.
  • Older Than They Think: Steven Levy's book Hackers describes this trope succinctly regarding an incident that occurred in 1962, during the first blossoming of the original Space War.
  • Katamari Damacy strikes in this xkcd. The game builds so much momentum with its "always roll forward" pressure that the character starts to see objects on the sidewalk as potential things to make into stars or planets or whatever.
  • Heavy Rain. Every time your character does anything short of walking there'll be symbols floating in the air to follow. Soon anything you do can be accompanied with an imagined symbol telling you which direction to press.
    • Turning a door handle will suddenly seem challenging.
  • Touhou players may hear a "grazing" sound every time they brush up against something.
    • Experienced Touhou players should also avoid listening to the soundtrack while driving. Heavy traffic is NOT an opportunity to display your ability to weave between tight spaces, no matter how small you think your hit box is.
    • The classic variety also applies. Get ready to see beautiful patterns of bullets dance behind your eyelids.
  • Fire Emblem players may see imaginary arrows marking their pathway every time they walk somewhere. It does not help that most sidewalks already have the squares right there in front of you.
    • Or watching your units do their idle/select animation in the overworld view may inspire you to start mimicking them or coming up with your own idle animation...
  • Rodent's Revenge Good luck typing properly after a few HOURS of this game.
  • Pretty much any game that's been part of a Windows game pack (Rattler Race; Rodent's Revenge; solitaire; Galactic Pinball; etc...).
    • Depending on whether you fought or embraced your addiction to these games, you're either pissed or relieved that most of them are not part of the more recent Windows gamepacks.
  • Try getting a high score on any given WarioWare microgame, especially the ones from Mega Micro Games$! Watch your score climb, and the beats just get faster and faster, and the "da da DA" sound get more frantic every time... then leave, do something calm, and the frantic pace STAYS with you.
  • Playing Pong for long periods of time will often result in players trying to bounce small objects back and forth.
  • You know you've played too much Shenmue when QTEs begin to pop up IRL, whether it be in fights or doing menial tasks.
  • Ever marathoned a Sims game only to see people move in an odd pattern with plumbobs over their heads afterwards?
    • Or stared at a house wondering how to add parts of it to your Sims house?
    • Or imagined bars for your various needs?
  • Playing any game with health pickups and a wireless controller, having the batteries run low in the controller and killing enemies in search of a battery pickup.
  • And playing any point-and-click game will have you putting everything you can find in your pocket (just in case you need to MacGyver your way out of your bathroom at some point).
  • If you're a fan of Sudoku, be prepared to waste every moment you spend trying to go to sleep solving Sudoku puzzles in your head.
  • Playing any Tony Hawk or Skate game leads to one looking around at things and thinking you can grind on them. That park bench, the power lines, pavement, fences...
    • You're also likely to find yourself looking at gaps and wondering how many points they'd be worth to traverse.
  • Freecell. If you are solving Freecell games in your sleep, even ones you haven't played, then you have a serious problem.
  • Too much of Batman: Arkham Asylum and other games in its series can lead to you seeing good grapple-points and ways to sneak around whenever there's raised scenery around.
  • Playing any amount of Max Payne will cause you to monologue unnecessarily about even the most simplest of things.
  • Playing Toontown Rewritten enough will result in you not looking at anything slapstick or business-related the same way again. For example you may think all people in business attire are boring.
  • Eerily enough, playing too much Advance Wars can make you imagine you hear the unit sounds and battle scenes if you're in a quiet place with a fan, or some other white noise going on.
  • Similarly, if you've been gathering a lot of Green Stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2 for a long time in one sitting, you might start listening for sparkling noises everywhere, hear sparkling noises, and then look around for a Green Star.
  • According to The Other Wiki, this can happen with Tamagotchi via the Tamagotchi Effect: "The Tamagotchi effect is a term that refers to the development of emotional attachment with machines or robots or even software agents."
  • Playing Splatoon can give you the urge to paint the floor. You may also want to paint the walls to climb them.
  • One Head and Shoulders brand shampoo bottle has a very...interesting shape, for anyone who's played Homeworld.
  • After The Last of Us any rattling noises might give you a heart attack because of those son-of-a-bitching Clickers.
  • Playing Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will cause its players to search for just the right people/animals to shadow strike so that they can get places faster.
  • A few World of Tanks players have confessed to having their real-life driving skills suffer somewhat due to the unique transmission properties of tanks as compared to cars. Others have admitted that they have begun to analyze vehicles on the road for possible armor thickness values (and occasionally heaping scorn onto box vans for having 'unsloped armor'), though this is obviously purely academic; the real life counterparts of any in-game gun would have no problem taking apart a civilian vehicle.
  • Play Gears of War for a while, or any third-person shooter with a cover mechanic, and you'll start seeing low walls, doorways, protruding objects, and pretty much anything as a potential cover spot. You'll also be alarmed at how common chest-high walls are in real life.
  • Warframe: After having had enough visits from The Stalker, you'd start getting a bit wary of whenever the lights begin flickering.
  • Among Us, man. People keep using in game terms inn real life and seeing random things as crewmates. To the point of Memetic Mutation.

    Puzzle Game 
  • The trope namer is, of course, Tetris (and its various clones). People have reported seeing falling blocks in their sleep after playing the game.
    • Early Nintendo ads for the game played on this phenomenon, referring to such people as "Tetrisized." Later ads for Tetris DS show the tetris effect more effectively.
    • The creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, was once interviewed by Nintendo Power asking if he had ever had "Tetris dreams" like other people have claimed they had. He said no dreams about falling blocks, but he had had dreams where he believed had just finished playing a game of Tetris.
      • As of an interview by DigitalTrends, he has indeed experienced dreams of falling blocks, but he "found this amazing and it didn’t bother [him] at all."
    • Now they are banking on this reputation with the aptly-named Tetris Effect, a new iteration seemingly designed to invoke this trope. ‘How?’ You might ask. By giving the reins over the people behind Lumines and Rez Infinite to turn the game into a psychedelic, neon, fever dream. Oh, and did we mention that it has VR support?
  • Players of Picross 3D have reported that after a few hours of playing, you can see blocks with numbers in your head and some have even tried to paint their bathroom's tiles red.
  • Many older puzzle games can have this effect, but Klax stories seem to pop up fairly frequently.
  • Play Braid for an hour or two and you'll find yourself forgetting in which direction time goes.
  • A joke told by Marcus Brigstocke (that's been circulated around the internet) is that "If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." It's more a humorous commentary on the Murder Simulators concept, but it arguably also qualifies here.
  • Super Collapse 3 and its ilk have the unfortunate side effect that playing too long will leave an afterimage of a field of Collapse blocks— still being popped, just like the player does— visible when you close your eyes.
  • Catherine: Atlus' block-ascending puzzle-adventure game, has caused this among players. Many mention seeing blocks when they try to go to sleep, and even dream about them. Hopefully these players haven't been cheating on their partners lately, or else they may never wake up...
    • Edge. Who would've thought a voice sample could turn into an ear worm?
  • Irisu Syndrome! will cause you to see shapes slowly fall down, collide in midair and disappear just behind your eyes.
  • Angry Birds will often leave you with the uncomfortable need to hurl heavy objects through windows, metal beams, boards, and similar structures.
  • Minesweeper will cause you to play game after game in your head while you try to fall asleep.
  • VVVVVV may cause you to attempt to flip gravity when walking through a crowded hallway.
  • After playing anagram-forming games such as Boggle, Jumble, or TextTwist, don't be surprised if you get stuck at a stop sign trying to form anagrams out of it ("pot", "pots", "post", "tops", etc.).
  • Bejeweled has the tendency to combine this effect with the puzzles of switching jewels and the reward sound of a chime when you succeed. It's really obvious when you're in a place like an Anime Convention and you have this paranoid feeling of hearing the chime coming from the gaming rooms.
    • It can also lead to a person mentally "swapping" people based on shirt color in an attempt to eliminate them, particularly if they are sitting in any sort of grid. Can happen to teachers or anyone giving presentations.
  • Crush is a game where you can flip the perspective between a 3D world or a 2D world that is relative to the direction the camera was facing when you "crushed" the environment. Once you get into the groove, reviewers have said they found themselves wanting to look at the world around them with the same sort of perspective, imagining what it would be like if they were to "crush" the objects they encountered onto a single plane and see what would happen.
  • After a few hours of Block'd, you might start noticing the gaps in the text while reading and stuff.
  • According to xkcd, 2048 causes you to look for numbers containing useful powers of 2.
  • The Witness:
    • Invoking this effect is the basis behind the environmental puzzles. You can draw lines on parts of the island itself to activate the obelisks' markings.
    • The secret ending of the game suggests that the player has succumbed to the effect within the reality of the universe, if not actually have become a Reality Warper. This has elements of both Leaning on the Fourth Wall and The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You, since the only way to reach this point is to suffer the Tetris Effect yourself, since this is the only way (without reading a guide or otherwise being spoiled) of discovering the existence of environmental puzzles such as the one that triggers the secret ending.

    Rhythm Game 
  • osu! is a rhythm game where you click on circles. Naturally, you can expect to see them every time you close your eyes after playing.
  • If you play beatmania, DanceDanceRevolution, Pump It Up, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, or the like for long enough, listening to music on the radio will start to evoke a picture of a note track, not to mention moving your fingers (or feet) like you're playing the song you're listening to on an invisible controller. Air Guitar Heroing, if you will.
    • Driving after playing Guitar Hero only to catch a setlist song on the radio may cause the driver to see the notes coming at him on the road.
    • Related is an effect called "velocitization" that players of games with note tracks scrolling toward the player (Frequency, Amplitude, Guitar Hero, Rock Band) will notice after playing a song. After looking at the same spot, watching the notes scrolling towards you, for a few minutes then suddenly looking away, you'll notice your perspective seems to warp at the new spot you're staring at. It's not exactly the same thing but a more short-term phenomenon of your eyes themselves adjusting to constant movement in a certain dimension. When you look at a surface that isn't moving towards you, your eyes still try to compensate for the previous situation, leading to the feeling that it is in fact moving/warping away from you.
    • Scantron test sheets have been compared to Guitar Hero solos because they have 5 slots for an answer corresponding to the five buttons in Guitar Hero, and only one is filled in. There is a Facebook group dedicated to this phenomenon.
    • In some cases, playing a fast-paced song in a rhythm game can cause the person to have a sort of slowed perception of time, similar to Bullet Time.
  • One player of a DS rhythm game started seeing little circles closing in on his focus, like the keys on his keyboard or... well just where he looked. Turns out it came from an overdose of saving the world with AWESOME.
    • Any rhythm game with a touch interface will make you compulsively tap to pretty much anything. One jubeat player demonstrates using his calculator.
  • Go play Rhythm Heaven, get a "perfect" on one of the minigames, and then listen to the minigames song by itself. You'll end up doing the actions yourself.
    • Occasionally, you might find yourself bouncing your head like the characters do when you listen to a song.
  • Patapon has you drumming in time with a steady "1-2-3-4" beat that issues out commands to your army of 'Pons. After playing for even a few minutes, you'll never get the "Pata-Pata-Pata-Pon" chant out of your head and will likely find yourself walking in time with that beat for awhile as well.
  • Play Friday Night Funkin' enough, and you'll find yourself bobbing your head to the beat like Girlfriend, regardless of the song you're listening to.

  • Dwarf Fortress is notorious for causing people to start dreaming in ASCII.note 
    • The Bay 12 forums are full of stories (be they their own threads or small diversions from the ones they’re posted in) of players wondering about putting things on artifact items, thinking about creating perpetual motion machines, and seriously debating mermaid enslavement to farm bones and internal organs.
  • After playing Diablo II (especially with friends who quickly grab everything), you will start to hear the "ding" noise that happens whenever a jewel/rune drops.
  • NetHack: Have you ever looked at an e-mail address and thought you were in a corridor filled with monsters?

    Role Playing Game 
  • People who played Persona 3, Persona 4, and/or Persona 5 might check their relationships with other people in terms of Social Links/Confidants, making sure that they advance it, not reverse it, or are not in an already established relationship while "forming" a new one when they make new acquaintances.
  • People who have played Ōkami have discussed drawing circles with their finger around dying vegetation, or where one would be placed to get it to come to life.
  • When meeting up with friends, it's common for some people to remark that their friend has just joined the party.
  • Many MUD players have reported dreaming in text.
    • Starting sentences with "say" is also fairly common.
  • Sometimes, playing Tales of... games and spending too much time on the cooking makes you forget you can't actually make cake with bread, eggs, and milk.
  • Walking across campus (or any large area where a car is either not practical or simply not available) and wanting to reach into one's pocket and mount one's horse.
  • Playing lots of Skyrim and other RPGs can lead people to think about quickloading in real life when screwing up. There have also been cases where after playing a lot of RPG, players will walk or drive along searching the side of the road or fields for collectibles.
  • Any RPG that has Dialogue Trees can have a noticeable effect on how its players talk to other people and think about conversations in real life. Ever played Mass Effect all night and started seeing a dialogue compass pop up whenever it's your turn to say something?
  • Pokémon fans may look for type matchups in EVERYTHING.
  • Resonance of Fate players wind up plotting Hero Runs in their head, figuring out how to make the lines intersect and still make a big enough area to maximize Tri-Attacks.
  • There have been some claims that playing Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, in which you have an Exploding Collar that is activated by radios will make people feel uncomfortable when around said radios or even hear the beeping sound the collar makes when it's about to explode.
    • Many beer and soft drink companies still bottle their beverages in glass bottles with steel crown-cork caps that require a bottle opener to remove, usually as a novelty "throwback" product. A Fallout player drinking from these bottles might catch themselves compulsively hoarding the caps.
  • If your walking around in Real Life, see a church, and think, "I should go there and save my game," perhaps you've been playing too much Dragon Quest.

  • Anyone whom has played games of the Metal Gear series will sometimes either play the enemy alerted tone when they spot somebody sneaking about, or... when they themselves are spotted while sneaking around.
    • Alternatively, play a lot of MGS1 and then talk to a friend or listen to a teacher who tells you about an unfamiliar concept. Resist the urge to respond "Unfamiliar concept?!".
    • You can pretty much guarantee that after a run in a Metal Gear Solid game you'll find yourself shouting "METAUL GEAAAURRR?!" at random intervals. More extreme cases involve cardboard boxes. It's a given.
  • Playing Hitman can make one extra-observant towards any potential accidents, especially falling chandeliers. Or it might only make one wonder how to sneak undetected into the "Emplyees Only" sections of stores.
  • After enough hours in Dishonored, you might find yourself frequently looking up at roofs and imagining clickable blue arrows on shopfronts and street lamps.
  • Games like Assassin's Creed, Metal Gear, and Splinter Cell may have you studying your environment in search of the best spots to hide, plant mines or gently push people.
    • The first game (if wearing a hoodie) has a tendency to make one walk slower and bow your head when you don't want to be noticed.
    • Any of the Assassin's Creed games will have you unconsciously plotting improbable routes from point A to point B if you play them too much.
      • It's worse if the area you currently happen to be in has a lot of Middle Eastern and/or Renaissance architecture.
      • And even more so if a building was actually seen in-game. Try walking through Rome or Jerusalem now...
    • If you've ever played multiplayer, you will very quickly develop a phobia of people walking behind you.
  • Someone who's played one of Thief for a few hours is going to almost instinctively start looking to check the light gem to make sure they're in the shadows.

    Survival Horror 
  • Good horror games will leave players in pant-wetting fear of certain noises or places, especially in the dark.
    • Alien: Isolation players learn to fear the sound of footsteps and may find themselves hiding away from people while thinking of ways to distract them.
    • Resident Evil 4 players get jolly nervous when they hear the sound of a chainsaw...
    • Silent Hill 2: scrape...scrape...scrape...
      • ANY Silent Hill gamer would quiver in fear at the sound of a fire siren...
  • Dead Space ... one word: vents.
    • Play for a while and holes in the real world start making you nervous.
    • If you take the time to learn the insane scrawls left all over the game (the cypher is hidden on a viewscreen of the Ishimura), you will eventually try to decypher spraypaint writings left by graffiti artists.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent players probably avoided water for quite some time. And pretty much everything else that could make a sound. Loud crashing noises were the worst. Hearing the monster's howl will most likely make them jump.
  • People who played Metro: Last Light for more than a couple hours at a time probably caught themselves looking at their watch to check if they were visible and how long they have left on their mask filter.
    • Or start monologuing in a Russian accent
  • After playing Five Nights at Freddy's, you'll be shutting your windows and lighting your hallways for weeks just to keep the killer animatronic faces away.
    • Good luck going to any restaurant or other entertainment place that uses animatronics. Those characters may hold a special place in the hearts of children, but you might find it hard to shake off the feeling they're out to murder you gruesomely when your back is turned.
    • And don't even get us started on Five Nights at Freddy's 4. You thought at least your own house was safe? Think again. Oh, and you might want to take a look at your bed. Something just might be gathering in there...
    • Thanks to Fazbear Entertainment, you can now spend an eternity (or 999 years) having endless amounts of fun in the form of Special Deliveries directed to your doorstep!!

    Turn-Based Tactics 
  • From the review for X-COM: UFO Defense on Gamespot:
    Finally, I finished my first game, and proceeded to stumble about for weeks after, having paranoid delusions that aliens really were invading Earth, cautiously looking for a flashing red "enemy in sight" warning in my peripheral vision.
  • Not surprisingly, its re-make XCOM: Enemy Unknown, has had the same effect, with people seeing "cover shields" everywhere, and making them wonder if a particular object is able to give half or full cover.
    • Veteran Ironman Impossible players will find themselves avoiding overturned tables, cars, and similar half-cover in other games because they're "unreliable," even if they would work just fine.

    Visual Novels 
  • Play through 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors a few times and you'll be calculating digital roots for weeks.
  • Try playing any Ace Attorney game for a few hours then get into an argument with someone without shouting Objection!... And even then, try not to point while shouting. Good luck!

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Players of Wide-Open Sandbox games, especially ones with extra mobility options, like Spider-Man 2, [PROTOTYPE], or Just Cause 2, are often found remarking in various online community forums that they wish they could web-sling around town (or run up walls) to make it easier to get around town and that they occasionally fantasize about what it'd be like to do so at the local mall.
  • Players of Assassin's Creed will start seeing paths of horizontal lines up every building they go by. It's even worse with Mirror's Edge. If you start getting the effect off of Mirror's Edge, you had better hope your favorite color is red.
  • Crackdown may cause an effect of seeing passable ledges on real buildings, as well as the ability to estimate what agility level you'd need to be in order to scale the building.
  • Factorio will make you see transport belts moving monotonously in the same direction, never stopping.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Despite all the fears generated by these games, one key thing was missed: the temptation created to just drive on the pavement killing dozens of innocent pedestrians or barge other cars out of the way when players are on the road IN REAL LIFE.
    • Many people find themselves identifying real life cars by their GTA counterparts. After San Andreas, graffiti tags start setting off little lightbulbs in your head.
    • Trying to enter the wanted level cheat when seeing a police car drive down the street after playing GTA for hours. This has happened more than once.
    • Some may end up imitating the walk cycles of the playable characters, alongside forcefully pulling car doors open.
  • After playing L.A. Noire for too long you'll probably start mindlessly picking up random objects and turning them in your hand.
  • Minecraft:
    • Players have reported starting to see everything as cubes.
    • Walk up behind a Minecraft player and make a hissing sound. Ideally you should be wearing a football helmet when you try this.
    • Play or watch the game for half an hour. You will never take the real meaning of the word "creeper" seriously again, trust me.
    • Seeing something large enough to be made of blocks on a stand. "Why is there a stand there? I mean, it's not one of the gravity-affected blocks."
  • Playing inFAMOUS for extended periods of time may make one thirst for that extra boost, and start eyeballing power boxes, lamp posts, and even possibly cars.
  • Specialise in Alchemy in Oblivion or Skyrim and after awhile you'll find yourself staring speculatively at shrubs and flowers you see in real life, wondering if they're worth harvesting for their magical effects. And feel the urge to eat them in order to discover such effects.
  • Playing Spore long enough WILL make you look at animals, buildings and vehicles differently.
  • Second Life can be like this as well. You'll find yourself trying to get somewhere quickly, and trying to look for the fly button, or for the transport button if you spend any amount of time using a HUD such as EmDash. Ditto goes looking for the mute button when you wish someone would be quiet.
    • It seems that 'outbreaks' of 'illnesses' are enough to set a seasoned player on edge.
    • You won't hear the word Zeus the same again.
    • BEE-BEE-BEE! Anyone accustomed to running away when the Viral Detector goes off will flinch when encountering actual sirens/alarms.
    • The game's stance on cannibalism will make you wonder if you, too, should eat that security guard to get access to the military building so you can find and eat someone else useful to the mission...
  • Play Watch_Dogs for a while. Then just try to suppress the urge to whip out your smartphone and try to scan every person in sight to learn what juicy secrets they've got, or if they've got some cash to hack out of their bank account.
    • Worse if you're already used to hack into security cameras and do basic parkour in order to prank your friends.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • If a fan were to spend a few weeks of their life watching Soul Eater each night after school or work, the aftermath would be much like this. After finishing the final episode and moving on to something else, it becomes confusing when characters in a World of Badass or even Adventure-Friendly World don't immediately introduce their weapons, who are in fact, not people. The effect can last up to a week.
  • In the manga version of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, insane Neat Freak Chiri's spring cleaning ultimately indulges in this trope. She becomes obsessed with filling dead space and starts stacking objects and people like blocks. Harumi comments that Chiri was always good at Tetris.
  • An in-universe non-gaming example in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Elma's OL Diary. Elma tries to erase Tohru by mashing delete on an imaginary keyboard after spending extra time at the office due to a deadline coming up.
  • Many anime fans will often envision the anime version of what is going on around them, at times. Complete with exaggerated expressions, sweat drops, and perhaps even the odd Japanese (or Japanese-pronounced) word.
  • Watching too much Death Note can make you slip into a manipulative and hyperanalytic mindset, and if there are people you don't like, you might find yourself planning and pulling schemes against them. You may also never eat potato chips the same way again.
  • Going to or seeing photos of a pool or beach after binge-watching Naruto makes for an odd experience. Why is everybody standing in the water instead of on top?

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Psycho gave people a pathological fear of showers.
  • Jaws made people afraid to go to the beach or swim in the ocean, and started a (temporary) killing spree on sharks.
  • This effect is demonstrated near the beginning of the Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times with a factory worker continuously going through the motions of his task even when not working.
  • In Computer Chess, Shelley remarks that she has started seeing people as chess pieces during the tournament.

  • The live-action game Assassin, usually played on college campuses, is known for its paranoia-inducing effects on dedicated players. Always sitting with one's back to the wall, hanging out near exits, scanning for snipers....
  • Humans vs. Zombies can have this effect on its players. Looking over your shoulder to check for someone sneaking up on you, looking for choke points and other areas that would be useful if chased, so on and so forth.

  • In Neil Gaiman's book Smoke & Mirrors, a collection of his more obscure short stories, is a narrative poem called Virus. It's only two pages long, but describes the speaker finding a computer game that consumes his entire life. One of the first signs that things have gone wrong is when he realizes he's playing the game in his head whenever he closes his eyes and seeing elements from it everywhere.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny experiences this early in the second chapter where he dreams that he's inside the eponymous video game, and recognises the experience from a previous game he played. This time, however, he actually is.
  • In Christopher Brookmyre's A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, Raymond Ash has just survived an assassination attempt by diving into a river. The next chapter featuring him opens with him making his way towards a ladder out of the water... and he hears the sound of a quad-damage powerup, and now his attackers are carrying railguns instead of handguns. He wakes up, realises that he'd conflated the events of the previous night with a computer game, and recalls the times when he was playing another game, would spot a fire extinguisher or barrel and automatically think "switch to melee" to blow his way into the next room.
  • In the Psych novel Mind-Altering Murder this is why Macklin Tanner went into hiding. He got so into his virtual-reality game Criminal Genius that he killed Walon O'Malley in a hit and run, trying to earn extra points. He immediately regretted it, destroyed the car he had used, and stayed among the homeless to punish himself.
  • In Beverly Cleary's book "Strider", Leigh, the narrator, has a job sweeping floors. He says he feels like he can see the floors' tile pattern in his sleep.
  • In the first chapter of Don Quixote, we see that Alonso Quixano, a Impoverished Patrician with way too much time on his hands, is a Fan Boy of Chivalric Romance books. He evolves into being Fan Dumb, then he wants to write Fanfiction about The tale of Don Belianis of Greece:, but he instead decides to change his life drastically by becoming a Knight Errant, changing his name to Don Quixote.
  • The book Math Curse by Jon Scieszka has a teacher tell her class that almost anything can be thought of as a math problem. One girl in the class begins to see math problems in everything, even something as simple as a trip to the store. Science Verse, written by the same author, has a boy suffer from a similar condition after his science teacher says that everything can be thought of as a science experiment.
  • This happens to Eragon in the first book of the Inheritance Cycle. As he learns to read, he starts to see letters in his head even when he closes his eyes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One part of a Drake & Josh episode in which Josh had to spend several days without playing video games showed him imagining his teacher as the Distressed Damsel in a Save the Princess game.
  • 30 Rock: Liz complains that she's out of whack in "Winter Madness" because she'd been playing online Boggle all night.
    Liz: Okay, this is my stop. STOP. POTS. TOPS. OPTS. POST...
  • In one episode of Spaced, Tim ends up taking drugs and playing Resident Evil 2 for days. He starts seeing zombies everywhere and ends up punching out Vulva, mistaking him/her for a zombie attempting to attack Brian.
  • Arino spent a long time of the Act Raiser episode of Retro Game Master doing the city building segment.
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine Captain Holt gets addicted to a Candy Crush-style game called Cwazy Cupcakes (the w is backwards), and acknowledges that he has a problem when he makes two men in a police lineup swap places so that three people with the same color shirt are standing next to each other.
    Gina: It's so addicting, right? I play so much that when I close my eyes at night, I just see cupcakes now, instead of my normal dizzying array of flashing lights.
  • Watching too much Doctor Who might cause one to avoid blinking upon spoting an angel statue or to stay way from the shadows, in the later case you better not ask "HEY, WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS?" whenever the lights goes out, and the Autons will give you Paranoia Fuel in a mall, as you can never be sure wherever that Mannequin is going to choke you.
  • Watching too much Sabrinathe Teenage Witch might leave you trying to use zap yourself into a different outfit when deciding what to wear, and/or trying to use any of the other "convenience" spells of the show


    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS players often start statting random everyday items, because they can. Similarly, almost every GURPS player has tried making a character sheet for their real-life self.
  • Dungeons & Dragons or SPECIAL games have been known to make people think in terms of stats, perks, etc. D&D alignments are especially dangerous: see tropes like Lawful Stupid for illustrated examples. This has reached far enough that the first thing many authors do is figure out what a characters alignment would be in D&D.
  • Mekton players on the Mekton Zeta Mailing List have drawn up stats for most anime mecha, most real military vehicles and even stats for Tupperware.
  • Many a BattleTech player, especially those who know of it's connection with certain anime series', will try converting most Mecha or vehicle stats to Battletech's own construction system.
    • This gained apotheosis when Catalyst a few years back did an April Fool's Day supplement statting World War II vehicles up in Battletech terms. They thought nobody in their right mind would use them on a tabletop as the machines were deliberately made hopelessly inferior to anything in the mainline game. They thought fans would have a good laugh and move on with their day. They were wrong. Fans clamored for more of this, liking the idea of fielding a Tiger tank or a P-51 in Battletech games.

  • Spend a few days on a LEGO project and try not to see the blocks on the insides of your eyelids.

    Web Comics 
  • From Scott McCloud's My Obsession With Chess:
    My brain was being rewired. I began to see diagonal lines of force emanating out of the corners of any orthogonal pattern such as the tiles of a floor or the legs of a chair.
  • Awkward Zombie: Katie sets her ringtone to be the Metal Gear "enemy spotted" tone... and freaks herself out whenever the tone actually sounds.
  • Homestuck: The official forums have threads full of people talking about what the webcomic has made them do, including more than a few mentions of attempting to captchalogue items and jumping at the sound of bicycle horn honks.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Have you taken in a lot of media regarding Slender Man? You might laugh at the first tall shadow you see, but over time it stops being funny and starts becoming pure Paranoia Fuel. Tobuscus encounters this effect in this video.
  • Mike of Outside Xbox exhibits this with regard to Peggle 2.
    Mike: This week, I've been playing a lot of Peggle 2. Too much Peggle 2. I'm having trouble distinguishing reality from Peggle 2.
    [Clip of Mike throwing scrunched-up paper at the bin, only for it to go into slow-motion and play Ode to Joy when he manages a hit]

    Western Animation 
  • The Doug episode "Doug's Lost Weekend" had Doug winning a Super Pretendo and becoming obsessed with beating a game called Space 'Munks. When Roger Klotz bothered him in class, he imagined his game's targeting system locking on.
  • The Simpsons had several in-universe examples.
    • When the family buys too much stuff at Rainier Wolfcastle's yard sale, and Homer goes through a Tetris sequence (complete with the 8-bit Korobeiniki theme lifted directly from the Game Boy version of the game) to fit everything inside the car... except himself.
    • When Lisa became a crossword puzzle addict, she started to see crosswords in everything.
    • Apu sometimes answers with his trademark quote outside of work.
      "Thank you, come again."
    • In one episode, Homer attempts to jam Lenny's head into a jigsaw puzzle while trying to complete it, hallucinating he fits the spaces perfectly. Lenny ends up with several jigsaw pieces in his eye, as is usual for him.
  • Watch enough Transformers and you could find yourself visualizing what every vehicle or household appliance would look like if it spontaneously turned into a robot.
  • During an interview at the end of an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie muses that he started having Tetris nightmares after playing.
  • Happened in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Skill Crane". After being stuck playing (and losing) the Krusty Krab's new crane game all day, Squidward goes home to find that he's lost all his motor skills, dropping everything he tries to pick up while hearing the sound of the crane's claw closing down.
  • Used in a Robot Chicken sketch:
    Kid: (while using a hammer and nail) Where's the delete key on this thing?!
    Grandpa: (turns the hammer around to the claw side)
    Kid: Wow!
    Grandpa: I hate your entire generation.
  • South Park had an episode which asked the question of video game haters: If kids are supposedly imitating violent games, why isn't the same true for non-violent games? As well as pointing out there are plenty of nasty things on television as well that no one cares about. In the episode, the kids are worried that watching "informative murder porn" will make their parents want to kill each other, so they put a blocker on the TV, with the unlock code being "How do you tame a horse in Minecraft?" Wanting to watch their shows, the adults end up getting hooked on Minecraft and start punching trees and making castles out of blocks of junk in real life.

    Real Life 
  • This is not limited to gaming. If you've ever had a repetitive job that involves working with large quantities of the same kind of object all day long, you probably dreamed about them on the night after your first day.
    • Especially annoying in the case of piece work. In jobs such as tree-planting, where you are paid for each tree you plant, and often live in a work camp for a condensed season (meaning that aside from basic needs and the occasional day off, your job is basically the only thing you do), dreams about planting trees are frequent, but frustrating, as you basically worked for free all night long.
  • Working a job that has you answering the phone a lot. Ever answer your phone at home with the name of the company you work for? Or end a casual conversation with a friend by thanking them for calling? Psychologically, this is called imprinting.
  • Anyone who's ever worked in retail has stories about using their "customer service" demeanour in non-work settings. Or you ask people if they want a receipt even if you are the one who is paying.
  • If you work at a job (like bagging groceries) where you literally are playing Tetris with the objects. Similarly, if you work the closing shift of a retail position and later go shopping, you'll find yourself compelled to move items to the front of the shelf and organize them.
  • Off duty taxi drivers will sometimes look for the meter if they are driving their friend in their regular, non-taxi car.
  • Children who worked long hours in factories in the Victorian Age were reported to be repeating their work (mostly simple hand movements) while they slept.
  • Combine this with Damn You, Muscle Memory!. If you're doing something physically repetitious enough, you may find your spouse waking up one night to see your unconscious body still trying to do that physical motion.
  • People who grew up (or spent a substantial part of their lives) during the period when films, and later television, were in black-and-white had a tendency to dream that way. For years it was assumed that some (non-colorblind) people just naturally didn't dream in color, or at least not exclusively... until sleep studies performed on people who were born after color TV proved otherwise.
  • The name of the programming forum Dream.In.Code refers to this phenomenon.
  • The Tetris effect is so strong, that people with short-term memory loss can experience the effect, despite not remembering even playing the game. It showed scientists that humans have a secondary type of memory. So Tetris actually helped advance science.
  • Professional copyeditors and proofreaders are usually among the most thorough and unrelenting Grammar Nazis in existence. Some have claimed to have actually proofread love notes sent to them out of sheer habit.
  • There's a story, probably a legend, of a 40 year Marine Veteran with Alzheimer's who only responded to a few commands from the Marine Drill manual.
  • If you work in a library you may find yourself unintentionally re-shelving your books to better reflect their Dewey placement.
  • If you spend enough time learning music theory, it is very difficult not to conduct along to every song you hear. Or, as xkcd put it...
  • Late author Robert Asprin attributed his creation of the first Myth Adventures book to this trope, as his deep immersion in writing the grim corporate-mercenary novel Cold Cash War was causing him to regard people, and even family members, as potential threats or targets. Writing a comic fantasy was his way of canceling out this alarming effect.
  • Chess tournaments. Play in one and while trying to sleep at night, you'll start playing games in your head.
  • Unfortunately, this is a big problem in the military. Many battle-trained soldiers must undergo "deprogramming" to get the "anything could be out to kill me" mindset out of their heads, among other ideas that are useful in a war zone, but not conducive to civilian life. When it gets too bad and they will never be the same, they call it PTSD. Scanning the road for IEDs is a very good example.
  • After spending quite a bit of time on any graphic design or art program (such as Photoshop or Blender), it's difficult not to start looking at the lines on the roads or various architecture and think, "Now how would I make that in [the program]?" Same thing for cars, or any object you come across everywhere.
  • Sometimes people will look at real scenes and objects and think "this looks shopped".
  • Artists may attempt to "save" and "undo" while making non-digital artwork, among other things.
  • People who knit and/or crochet, often times, will see a knitted/crocheted item and try to figure out how to reproduce the results after admiring it for a short time.
  • This applies on a more industrial level. Once you learn how to operate an industrial lathe, milling machine, or learn G & M code programming, once you learn all the steps it takes to actually create something, you will have a different outlook on life and start to look at every thing we use and take for granted in every day life and wonder how it's all constructed. Really, any sort of educational process where you learn how to produce something new will have you wondering "If I were the one making that, how would I go about it?"
  • If you go to sleep shortly after studying for a final, chances are you'll dream of anatomical charts, periodic tables, legal cases, math tables, or whatever else you were studying.
  • People who regularly drive a manual transmission will sometimes use their left foot to feel for the clutch when they get into the driver's seat of an automatic.
  • There are many parents teaching their kids how to drive who automatically hits the brake, despite being in the passenger seat.
  • Practitioners of Le Parkour can suffer from this to a maddening degree. After practicing for a while, Traceurs (the word for a Parkour practitioner) begin to see potential paths everywhere they go. EVERYWHERE. Even watching enough videos of it can cause this.
  • Someone who watches enough martial arts movies or videos may start looking at the people around him and thinking "yeah, I can take 'em".
  • If you've spent any significant amount of time 3D modelling, it won't be long until every building that you see gets analysed and recreated as a 3D model in your head.
  • One Storycorps podcast episode tells the story of a former steelworker who, dying and drugged up on morphine, would sit on his back and make steel.
  • Ever done a study on literary/art/film analysis? You will analyze every book/artwork/film you encounter, even if just for leisure.
  • Using a touch screen can cause this to happen when you interact with electronics that aren't touchscreens; you may find yourself poking at an icon on your regular PC with your finger. Worse, you might start trying to scroll through a book/newspaper in dead tree format as if it's a touchscreen! If there's anyone in the room with you, they might point and laugh at you, much to your embarrassment.
  • New students in any field of design — graphic design, architecture, interior design, etc. — are often told only half-jokingly by their professors that they will never be able to look at their chosen field the same way again once they start.
  • After spending some time at the beach or on a cruise some people may experience sea legs, the sensation that they are still rising and falling, or feeling the sea waves. It's not clear, however, if this is a form of Tetris Effect or an adaptation of the sensory system to a constant stimulus.
  • Any person who's been in a marching band for an extended period of time may find themselves subconsciously glide-stepping and/or trying to align their steps to their music while walking in public.
  • While shopping, cosplayers may find themselves analyzing everything they see in terms of what can be utilized for their next costumes or what would look perfect for certain characters.
  • People in technical theatre tend to not be able to watch plays or musicals they aren't involved in due to this trope. After a couple shows, they'll find themselves looking for and judging the sets, lights, and sound and not paying attention the actual show due to them needing to focus on those things on the job.
  • The clinical part of a doctor's or nurse's brain does not just shut off because they're not at work; they're seeing and examining and picking up on things all the time. Some physical signs are quite subtle.
  • This is, of course, the main reason TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life.
  • Anyone who has worked as an usher at a movie theater will often accidentally tear their own movie tickets out of pure habit.
  • If you're a fan of a certain series be it an anime or a video games, the chance of you having a dream of said media is pretty good. Even if you aren't a fan of said series there's a chance of you suddenly dreaming about it.
  • Anyone who works in a GMP laboratory for long enough will find themselves trying to follow protocols at home, like trying to print the weight on their home kitchen scales, or having to stop themselves from writing opened dates on food.
  • Many dancers often feel the urge to move alongside music, even if they are just casually listening to it in their free time. This worsens if it's a piece they have performed previously, good luck at trying to sit completely still then.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Tetris Effect


Homer Plays Tetris

"All those years of playing Tetris have finally paid off."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheTetrisEffect

Media sources:

Main / TheTetrisEffect