Fire Tetris - Burning Man 2015 Honorarium Art Grant Application

Jody McIntyre <>


Jody has been part of the Burner community since 2008, when he first attended and created an in-camp art installation. In 2009 he founded Montreal’s first theme camp and led it successfully in 2 following years. He has also created art installations for 3 regionals, and helps run a major, fire art focused theme camp at the Firefly regional burn. In 2012, he led the Montreal decompression. Professionally he has worked as a software developer and in the construction industry.

Project Website

Project Summary

Fire Tetris is a large scale (20’ high x 10’ wide) game board that lets participants play the classic video game tetris, with all the pieces made of fire. This is done using 200 flame heads working together, which together will light up the night sky with glorious flames.

What is the philosophy of your piece?

Fire Tetris will blow the minds of participants with flaming edge technology and razor sharp gameplay. Inspired by large scale fire art at Burning Man and elsewhere, we set out to explore what we could do with larger numbers of smaller flames. It started with a fire-based display screen to scroll messages entered by participants, but then we realized it would be way more awesome to use the screen to play games. So, we’re taking the ultimate video game classic, tetris, and rendering it in vibrant flame for the benefit and amazement of up to four simultaneous players!

We will create an entertaining experience that gives participants the thrill of controlling fire directly, but in the context of a fun and addictive game. The original game gave joy to players with each row of blocks that they managed to align. This dramatically improved version will give participants not only joy, but also heat, shock, risk, and awe with each row of blocks that they manage to ANNIHILATE WITH FIRE. When things aren’t going so well, players will feel the pressure of blocks piling up as in the original game. With our interpretation, they’ll also literally “feel the heat” as the screen gets fuller.

The Fire Tetris concept builds on a prototype we have successfully presented at two regional burns, Firefly and Playa Del Fuego. We are excited to build on what we’ve learned and create something bigger and more interactive!

Physical Description

The installation is designed to be viewed from the front, where the gameplay takes place. In order to draw people in from every direction, a large “victory poofer” will be installed on top of the structure, projecting flames high into the night sky whenever a player clears a line of pieces.

The installation will stand 27’ high and 10’ wide along one side of a support tower. The support tower will be built from scaffolding and secured by 4 guylines. For Burning Man, we have sourced “Systems” scaffolding (similar to tube and coupler), which we prefer for its “clean line” aesthetic, but for other events we can use frame scaffolding instead.

A large metal game board will occupy the upper 20’ of the tower. At a comfortable viewing distance from the game board, there will be a player area containing video game controllers that participants can use to play the game. Next to the player area, there will be lots of space for other participants to watch and cheer on the players.

The board will consist of 200 individual “pixels”, 10 wide and 20 high - in other words, a standard sized tetris board. Each pixel will be a 1’ x 1’ steel box open on the front containing an effect head that can entirely fill the box with flames. While each flame will be small and low-pressure (by Burning Man standards), the overall effect will be a massive, ever changing tableau of fire. Each pixel will have its own hot surface ignitor, so that “unlit” pixels will really be dark, with no pilot flames to spoil the aesthetic.

The wiring, electronics, and propane delivery pipes will be hidden on the back side of the board. The propane tanks, generator, speakers, and other equipment will also be placed away from the board. There will be no visual distractions from the slick display for participants.

We’d like to be placed with the Charnival installation - we’re excited by all the ideas being proposed there! (Plus, sharing generator costs will help us a lot.)


Some art installations are designed to be viewed and contemplated. Fire Tetris is designed as a explicitly participatory experience. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a game! While watching participants play will be entertaining in and of itself, the true value of the installation will come through when people play with it. We have designed the installation to draw participants in to play and to cheer on other players.

Our installation is first and foremost a group activity. Traditionally, video games are isolating, played alone on a computer or a console. Fire Tetris will break down these barriers and bring people together to interact with the installation in real time.

The tetris gameplay mechanic is familiar to most people: players guide 4-pixel pieces down the board, hoping to form complete lines across the board. When a line is completed, it disappears and the lines above it drop down, but as the game progresses, placing blocks becomes harder and eventually the board becomes full. When fire fills the board, the game is over and the next participant(s) in line can test their skills.

Fire Tetris will offer two different play modes. In single player mode, one participant will use a classic NES (Nintendo) controller to fully control the installation. This will allow gameplay that follows the classic NES or Gameboy game style that most people are familiar with, and also the more modern “Tetris Grand Master” style game play, so we can challenge even the most experienced tetris players. During single player play, the game operator will encourage the crowd to cheer on (or heckle) the player as appropriate.

We will also have a multiplayer mode for four players, inspired by 2009’s Grooviks Cube installation. In this mode, each player will be given a single pushbutton, so each player will control one command: left, right, rotate, and drop. This will allow more participants to interact with the installation and each other, encouraging collaboration and communal effort.

Since every video game needs music, the original tetris theme (Korobeiniki) will be recreated with variations, and original sound effects will be triggered for game rewards and actions. We plan on letting the crowd choose which particular musical style is played during a given game.

Safety and Engineering

Safety and engineering of the installation is the artist's responsibility. What safety procedures or engineering strategies do you expect to have in place when it is installed on playa?

Our team has members with multiple years of fire art experience, and fire safety is our top priority. Our installation will be in compliance with safety standards as outlined in the NFPA 160. During operation, at least 2 trained operators will be present. One of these will be responsible for holding down a deadman switch. If the switch is released, all power to all solenoids will immediately shut off, shutting off the main fuel supply and all effect heads.

Our Fire Safety Lead will draft a detailed fire safety plan and daily checklists to be reviewed by operators at the start of each shift. Safety equipment at the installation will include fire extinguishers, fire blankets, burn and first aid kits, and at least 2 MURS radios capable of reaching emergency services. Operators and other volunteers will be trained in the use of safety equipment.

In addition to fire safety, all other reasonable safety measures will be implemented. Our scaffolding has been designed by a journeyman scaffolder to ensure structural integrity. The scaffolding will be secured with 4 guylines sized to keep the installation upright during the full force of a dust storm.

We will not allow participants to climb on our support tower. The entire tower will be within our perimeter fencing, and a dedicated volunteer will watch the perimeter. When we leave the installation, our fence will remain in place and signs will discourage climbing. We will also block access to the tower’s ladder or remove it.

Leave No Trace Plan

Please describe in detail your Leave No Trace plan. This should include the cleanup strategies during the install, through the event, and post event/deinstallation.

The Fire Tetris team will be responsible for implementing Leave No Trace at the installation site and the 50’ area surrounding it, guided by our LNT coordinator. Before the event, packing will be done as to minimize excess packaging, and small parts will be packed in sealable containers to prevent spillage. We will bring appropriate clean-up tools, including contractor garbage bags and buckets for sharp materials, brooms, rakes, and magnetic sweepers.

During setup, we will take steps to ensure construction waste does not become MOOP. We will have a truck on site at all times during the build, which will be used if we need to cut or drill metal, and we will clean the inside of the truck regularly, so that small chips do not leave the truck on our clothes or shoes. Anyone working with zip ties, tie wire, or similar materials will have a small bag with them to collect pieces immediately. We will sweep our site regularly during the build.

During the event, members of our team will do a MOOP sweep every day to make sure our grid is clear of anything that has been dropped or blown into our area. Those on site to operate Fire Tetris at night will remind participants to take their MOOP with them and be alert to pick up anything they see before it gets blown away or buried.

During teardown, our entire installation will be packed out, and our tank bath will be emptied by a vacuum truck. We will deMOOP as we go as part of the teardown and loadout process, and once our site is clear we will perform a line sweep of the entire area. The LNT coordinator will ensure that all our team members are present for the line sweep, and that we don’t leave the site until it is free of MOOP. After leaving the playa, we will bring our trash and recyclables to appropriate dropoff centers.

During all stages, team members will collect and store their personal garbage. They will also be responsible for collecting MOOP accidentally produced by the project or left by other participants.

What build materials will you be using to construct your piece?

Each flame box will be created from steel sheet metal. Malleable iron (blackpipe) will be used for the fuel plumbing. Square steel tubing frames will be used to support the flame boxes and plumbing.

The support tower will be a commercially available steel scaffold secured by guy wires. The frames will be attached to the scaffolding using slotted strut channel (“Unistrut”).

The control system will include vintage and custom made game controllers, and specially designed flame effect controllers built on professionally made circuit boards.

Ignitors will be made of custom ceramic insulators, nichrome wire, and high temperature wiring.

Will your Art Installation utilize recycled materials?


How will you illuminate your art installation?

Your art installation must be sufficiently illuminated at night, not only during the event but during construction. This includes any rebar, guy wires and any other part of the installation that may cause someone to be seriously injured.

Our entire perimeter fence will be illuminated by LED rope lights, which will be run from our generator when we’re operating the installation and by battery when we are not.

During operation, the area inside the perimeter will also be lit by floodlights.

Please describe your sound elements.

What are they and what is their impact on participants or other surrounding art installations? Specifically, please tell us from how far away your sound will be heard - just inside your installation (ambient), 10 feet away, etc.

Please note that we do not fund or place bands, performances, DJs, or amplified sound in art installations on the open playa.

Fire Tetris is first and foremost a video game, so sound is essential to the experience. The tempo of the music will vary with the speed of the game to create dynamic tension. The original tetris theme (Korobeiniki) will be recreated with variations to keep the experience fresh and varied. Original sound effects will be present in addition to music for game rewards and actions. Note that our sound is designed to complement and enhance the gaming experience, not to compete with art cars and sound camps.

Projected sound levels are: 80 dB maximum at the player table, 65 dB maximum at our perimeter.

Please describe any changes or modifications you would want to make to the piece to make its placement off-playa possible after the event.

Fire Tetris is designed to be a temporary installation at an event, rather than a permanent fixture. We hope to exhibit it at future artistic events such as Montréal En Lumière, Montréal Joue (gaming festival), or Detroit Maker Faire. No changes would be necessary - the installation is designed to be installed using any type of scaffolding as a support tower.

For smaller events where a 27’ high tower is not appropriate, we’ll also be able to produce smaller, non tetris installations using the same parts. For example, we could make an impressive scrolling text marquee with 4 or 5 panels side by side, and most 4 letter words will fit in just 3 panels.

Burning Man typically partially funds art projects. What are your plans and strategies for raising any additional necessary funds?

Our goal is to raise $5,500 of the project’s budget via a crowdsourced Kickstarter campaign, a big Burner party, and a number of smaller fundraising events coordinated by an experienced team. We are looking forward to inspiring and bringing together the Montreal Burning Man community.

Online, a Kickstarter promotional video will outline our vision and the mechanics of this interactive art piece.  Our video producer has a successful track record having produced Indiegogo promotions for the popular theme camp, Midnight Poutine. To promote the campaign we will solicit media coverage through press releases, while also engaging a number of social networks including highly motivated regional communities in Montreal, Toronto, and Boston. Unique Kickstarter perks are being designed. We expect to raise a net of $3,500 through crowdfunding.

We will also dance. A fire-themed event will bring our local Burning Man community together to perform and play. It will be comprised of a Tetris competition, aerial performances, DJ sets, visual arts, and of course lots of fire. Net proceeds from ticket sales are estimated at $1,500 to $2,000 based on attendance of 300 people. This event will be open to the public at large. The community talent is sure to impress!

No event is too small. If needed, BBQ’s and potluck suppers will be hosted to encourage contributions.

Our team is confident in our ability to raise these funds while manifesting Burner culture and promoting awesome fire art!

Black Rock City Project Plan

Start build date: ASAP / March 15, 2015

Build location: Montréall, Québec, Canada. Specifically: the project lead's backyard workshop, plus Helios Makerspace.

Support crew:

Project lead: responsible for the overall project and vision.

Project manager: tracking deadlines and project state.

Fundraising: raising extra money to cover all our expenses.

Software: programming needed to produce an amazing gaming experience.

Graphic design: logos and branding to enhance the installation.

Volunteer coordinator: scheduling volunteers, making sure they are happy.

Fire Safety: documentation and checklists, making sure the team follows through.

Music: produce an awesome soundtrack and sound effects.

Mechanical Design: design of physical elements, load calculations.

Scaffolding Design: ensure the tower design is safe and effective.

Leave No Trace: ensuring we follow this important principle.

Ceramics: custom insulators for the ignitors.

All roles have been filled, and we have plenty of volunteers willing to help with the build process. We also have advisors in a nearby city who have led the creation of major honorarium art installations (SSF, Riskee Ball)

Flame Effects Details:

Fire Tetris will use LP gas (propane) flame effects - see the “fuel system block diagram” for an illustration of how this fits together.

Fuel is supplied by 5x 100lb propane cylinders, upright for vapor delivery, sitting in a water bath. The tank bath is heated by a gas-fired tankless water heater, controlled by a temperature sensor in the tank bath. Each tank is connected to the fuel manifold via an LP rated hose and a quarter turn shut off valve.

The manifold is in turn connected to our main regulator, which is a 10 - 95 PSI adjustable regulator set to 20 PSI. The regulator assembly feeds our panel manifold assembly via a 1 ½” LP gas rated hose. The panel manifold supplies 20 PSI gas to the victory poofer (consisting of a 20 pound accumulator, solenoid, and ¾” flame head) and contains a 3 - 5 PSI adjustable regulator. The lower pressure gas is used to feed the individual panels, each of which contains its own manifold and 25 flame heads.

Each flame head consists of a 9 ½” length of ¼” blackpipe with 9x 3/32” holes drilled in it. One end of the flame head is fed from the panel manifold, controlled by a solenoid valve, and the other is capped.

Each flame head has its own hot surface ignitor, which are custom designed and based on coiled nichrome wire.

The control system consists of 16 custom designed boards, as used by the 2013 Riskee Ball installation, controlled by a laptop communicating over RS-485. Solenoid power is also controlled by a deadman switch.