Take a look at this. You don’t need to understand it, for my point to come across, but for now, please just look at it.

In preparation for an upcoming video I’m putting together, the code you see above is all that is required for a fully functional game of Tetris. I wrote it in a way that was readable by an average human (the intention of the video is to introduce some fundamentals), then reduced it until I had to go to bed. There is still scope to reduce it further, but something about it struck me. This handful of characters and digits contains enough information to play a fully functioning game of Tetris. This to me is no different from looking at a strand of DNA knowing that within is encoded all the necessary information to construct people. The characters above contain the definitions for the pieces (Tetronimos), the layout of the board, the rules of the game, animations for lines that disappear, rules for detecting collisions, increasing levels of difficulty, score keeping, user input and control and ultimately displaying it on a computer screen.

Some may argue “Sure, but it needs all the libraries and stuff and an OS to work, which means there’s millions more characters”. I can’t refute this but I propose it does not matter. This humble block of bytes above, is all the information needed within an existing ecosystem to present a fully functioning game of Tetris. DNA on its own doesn’t form life, it still needs an ecosystem to operate within. Likewise, that existing programming ecosystem will not on its own present a game of Tetris, it needs just this extra “blip” of information to make that happen.

At the risk of sounding like a pretentious git, there is a beauty to this. It’s not often that your eyes can perceive the whole of something in programming, but here we are, staring at an imposing rectangle of just about readable C++ code. There is nothing more, nothing hidden; and a programmer can see it is legitimate code, but this arrangement of symbols and characters is all that is required to form a complex, fun and interactive puzzle game, known to quite literally billions of people around the world.

I’ll be uploading the source soon enough, when the video gets finished, but for now, just staring at the image makes me really appreciate information in a new way.