Ellie Miles (a Ph.D. student at Royal Holloway) likens writing a thesis to playing Tetris.

Ellie Miles


‘What appears in your eyes all the time are your mistakes’

– Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris inventor, speaking in Tetris: From Russia with Love

Oonagh Murphy recently wrote about gamifying the PhD, describing a system of rewards and positive reinforcements. Conference papers, productive meetings with supervisors, publications and collaborative projects definitely feel rewarding but the daily work of a PhD feels more like a game of Tetris. ‘Tetris is a game with a very strong negative motivation’, argues Mikhail Kulagin, in the same film. The good chapters and finished articles are like the completed lines; they’re set aside from your workspace and converted into points on the scoreboard, ticked off your thesis plan or added to your CV. Your research gaps, incomplete bibliographies and works in progress are the things you see on the screen in front of you.

Sometimes writing up a PhD feels a lot like Tetris. As the documentary’s voiceover…

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