Home Emergency Management News Tetris Challenge: A Novel Contest for First Responders
Tetris Challenge: A Novel Contest for First Responders

Tetris Challenge: A Novel Contest for First Responders


By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

One of the earliest – and most popular – digital games is Tetris. In its earliest form, groups of three or four square blocks in various formations would drop down toward the squares at the bottom of the screen.

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The idea was to build a wall by rearranging the falling squares to fit into the bottom squares before time ran out. With each successfully built wall, the blocks would drop more rapidly.

Over the years, Tetris has become more complex with successive iterations such as Tetris Arcade, Nuclear Tetris, Tetro Mania, Alice in Tetrisland and even Sudoku Tetris.

Now, however, according to The Guardian, there is a version of Tetris that involves emergency responders competing in a worldwide “flat-out viral meme.”

Tetris Challenge Began with a Facebook Photograph from Police Officers in Zurich

As Alyx Gorman writes in The Guardian, “On 1 September, the police department of the Swiss canton of Zurich sparked more curiosity than they sated by posting an image of two police officers, six traffic cones, a broom, two hand guns and dozens of other pieces of neatly arranged policing paraphernalia to their Facebook page.”

The Zurich police department’s press officer told Gorman that during an open house day, the department spread the contents of a police car on the ground. “Two policemen then had the idea to join in as well. The photo was finally taken with a drone,” Rebeca Tilen explained.

The aerial photo resembles a layout of Lego blocks.

“The arrangement – known to fans of graphic design and internet miscellany as knolling – won the police department several thousand Facebook likes,” Gorman noted.

Emergency Response Organizations from Other Countries Join the Tetris Challenge

Other Swiss emergency response organizations quickly joined in what became known as the Tetris Challenge. They were soon being challenged by teams from the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria and Germany. Singapore, Mexico and Taiwan also became participants.

“It is a self-runner,” Tilen said. “The different departments all over the world try to constantly confront each other with even more funny ideas.”

Knolling’s Architectural Origins

Gareth Branwyn, a freelance writer and former editorial director of Media Maker, attributes knolling to Andrew Kromelow, a janitor who worked in the furniture shop of the world-famous architect Frank Geary.

At the end of each day, Kromelow would arrange all of workers’ jumbled tools at right angles on their benches. He called his arrangements “knolling” after the angular furniture created by interior designer Florence Knoll, who died this past January at the age of 101.

Knolling Involves Arranging Similar Objects in Parallel Rows to Form a Rectangle

In effect, knolling is aligning like objects on a desk or table in parallel rows that create a rectangle. Knolling is a perfect diversion for neatness freaks and people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

“The term and concept really came into its own,” Branwyn explains, “when the amazing artist and designer Tom Sachs popularized it in his 10 Bullets video, a tongue-in-cheek short film designed as a training film for incoming studio personnel.”

Sachs’ bullet number 8 in the 10 Bullets video, “Always Be Knolling,” may one day be the mantra of EMT units worldwide. If so, knolling should prove to be a worthwhile respite from their critical and often life-saving work.

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David Hubler David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. In March 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published the paperback edition of David’s latest book, "The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever."