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The online mini game „Housing Shortage Tetris“ was developed as part of the hackathon „Coding Precarity – Social Issues in Cultural Data“ organised by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB). The result of the three day long hackathon and a team of four is a playable game prototype.

Topic & Team

The topic of this year's hackathon was social precarity. The challenge was about making visible the social problems that were recorded in the data and make it interactively explorable, if possible. 

The team behind the Housing-Shortage-Tetris were Bruno Puri (Computer Science B.A. at the Technical University Berlin), Maryna Honcharenko (Interface B.A. at the FH Potsdam), Manuel Pfeuffer (M.Sc. Statistics at the Humboldt University Berlin) and Anna Meide (Interface B.A. at the FH Potsdam)


The digitized collections of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB) and the ZBW - Leibniz Information Center for Economics formed the basis of the data sets. What was added to the libraries over the centuries already represents a first historical selection. Similarly, only a fraction of the entire collections have been digitized so far, often in connection with research projects or large-scale digitization initiatives.

For the Hackathon, thematic data sets were compiled from the digitized stocks to facilitate orientation within the data set. The result were data sets that were either inspired by the libraries' collection priorities or relate to topics that seem particularly important.

The datasets contained image data of the corresponding historical documents as well as metadata. In many cases, OCR full texts are also available. The documents contained in the datasets are licensed under the Public Domain.

The data sets were therefore (to my surprise) not fully machine-readable. there was no data in the sense of big data that could have been visualized with tools like mapbox or tableau. and so our team tried to develop a concept that fits the data.


Ideation & Research

During the joint ideation phase we used the proven online tool miro. As soon as the idea of creating a thematic tetris game was formulated, we started to gather both visual and technical templates. We created moodboards and fast, rough game prototypes. As soon as we had a proof of concept, we started to refine the final design and the final game logic via iterations.

game level 2.pnggame level 2.png
MacBook Pro - 1.pngMacBook Pro - 1.png


What comes across as a cheerful, colorful and popular game classic is conceptually quite something. The individual Tetris figures are representative city dwellers from the 19th century. Here home workers spend the night next to migrant workers, who often shared beds by the hour with so-called sleeping lads. Saleswomen, girls for everything, retired relatives, factory workers also join in, as do droves of children. The Tetris game functions as a strong metaphor.



For the implementation we used Figma, a collaborative interface design tool, and Godot, an open source game engine. Godot allows to design single Tetris figures individually. And so we developed a total of nine different figures, which represent the typical apartment seekers in 19th century Berlin.

The game logic is based on the fact that with each level it becomes more and more difficult to distribute the necessary number of tenants in the same room, because their number is constantly increasing and they need a place faster and faster. Through this gamification approach, the important - and today again extremely relevant - topic should also reach politically uninterested groups.

Here you can try out the game for yourself

Game on GitHub (

Project on GitHub (



Ideally we were hoping to implement an html one page website with the game integrated in it. Conceptually the Tetris game idea could be further elaborated. The data sets provide several scenarios for the housing shortage - for example, examples from the countryside, from medium-sized towns and from metropolises such as Berlin or Hamburg. Hourly rentals to sleeping lads or the accommodation of the many homeless people from the time alone could be modulated into separate arenas with their own game logics.


Personally, I am very satisfied that I took part in this hackathon. I am glad that there is such a format. I found the hackathon a great way to try out and train my interface design skills. In addition, you can meet new people from other educational institutions and you can see and experience how they go about the same tasks as you do. This point was more informative and exciting to me than I expected. :) The teamwork really worked well in our group - even beyond the hackathon. I think that was because we all were on a very similar level.

Of course, there is no time to truly learn something new in depth during a hackathon since the format is quite short and the workload extensive. That did not bother me this time, because I was expecting it to be that way. 

In short it was fun. I would do it gladly again.



Art des Projekts

Freies Projekt


foto: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin


Sommersemester 2020