Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming LED Display

20x10 WS2812 LEDs driven by Raspberry Pi/Arduino to play games like Tetris in the living room

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I am building a retro gaming display for my living room to play games like Tetris or Snake with a wireless controller while I am sitting on my sofa. 10 columns of WS2812 LED stripes are integrated in a lasercutted MDF frame, which is covered by a transparent wood veneer. The heart of the system is a Raspberry Pi A+ which is integrated in the MDF frame. This Pi is connected to an Arduino driving the LED stripes. Four 8x8 Matrix displays are combined to a highscore display which is also connected to the Pi via SPI.

The wireless controller is based on an ESP8266-IoT-board, which connects to the Pi over Wi-Fi. A Joystick and four Arcade buttons are used for game controlling. The controller is powered by a LiPo and could be charged by a microUSB connector.

Based on the python_games package coming with Raspbian, all games are written in Python.

This project was inspired by Türtris:

Check the videos on Youtube



Adobe Portable Document Format - 13.96 kB - 06/12/2016 at 14:51


CAD files for MDF matrix

Zip Archive - 306.31 kB - 05/04/2016 at 15:44


  • 1 × Raspberry Pi A+
  • 1 × Arduino Pro Mini
  • 200 × WS2812 LED (stripes 30 LED/m)
  • 34 × Lasercutted MDF
  • 1 × Joystick

View all 7 components

  • Update 2020

    makeTVee02/24/2020 at 17:32 0 comments

    After using the matrix for several years and supporting many other person to realize their own version, it is time to update my matrix based on all the learning from the last years. So now it has the following features:

    • Replacing the old Raspberry Pi A+ with a Pi Zero W 
    • Removing the Arduino board and just driving the WS2812B LEDs with the Pi
    • Using a Bluetooth gamepad instead of the large WiFi-Controller
    • Using inbuilt Bluetooth and WiFi from the Pi
    • Updating all used Python libs to the latest state
    • Adding new features to the software:
    • Auto-connect to the gamepad, reconnect when switched off and on
    • Shutdown the Pi via gamepad
    • Highscore for Tetris and Snake
    • Improved gameplay 
    • Adapt the simulator to the new input device

    So it should be easier now to rebuild the matrix using available components and latest libs. Therefore I wrote an instructable to provide a step-by-step guide to build your own matrix. It is also planned to offer a set with the main components like wood veneer and laser cut parts on Tindie soon. So stay tuned and enjoy making ;-)

  • UART speed issues

    makeTVee01/26/2019 at 05:07 0 comments

    After discussing this issue with several people who want to build their own matrix, I decided to sum up the main points in a project log.

    In the newer versions of the Raspberry Pi with integrated Bluetooth like Pi3B/B+, ZeroW and the new 3A+, the hardware UART is used for the Bluetooth module. The second UART, which is connected to the extension header, is a software UART implementation. This second UART seems to be limited to 250kBaud. You can read more details on this website:

    This project uses 500kBaud for transferring the LED data between Pi and Arduino. I am using an old, non-Bluetooth Pi A+. The only thing, I have changed, was adding this line at the end of the /boot/config.txt :


    There is an option to change the UART configuration on newer Pis by connecting the hardware UART to the extension header and the software UART to Bluetooth:

    I didn't have time to test this, but it looks quite straight forward. Also if there are other solutions, I will update this post.

    Of course, it is also possible to reduce display update timings to reduce the UART speed to 250k. 

  • Data visualization (German parliament)

    makeTVee09/29/2018 at 15:25 0 comments

    I just started to play around with parsing data from internet sources to the matrix. 

    Starting with this page (German parliament seat distribution):

    and extracting data and colors from the SVG image using this code:

    doc = minidom.parse('diagramm.svg')  # parseString also exists
        style_string = [path.getAttribute('style') for path in doc.getElementsByTagName('path')]
        label_string = [path.getAttribute('aria-labelledby') for path in doc.getElementsByTagName('path')]
        text_string = [text.getAttribute('id') for text in doc.getElementsByTagName('text')]
        data_string = [text for text in doc.getElementsByTagName('text')]
        for i in range(0,7):
        for i in range(0,text_string.__len__()):
            if text_string[i]==label_string[index]:
                percentage.append(int(round(200*int(data_string[i]._get_childNodes()[0]._get_data().split(": ")[1])/709)))
                if index < label_string.__len__()-1:

    So after sending this data to the matrix, I got this:

     Nice starting point...

  • Matrix size

    makeTVee04/28/2018 at 13:19 0 comments

    After several questions regarding code adaption for different matrix sizes, python code now has global pixel settings called PIXEL_X and PIXEL_Y.

  • Controller details

    makeTVee03/04/2017 at 07:47 0 comments

    I have uploaded the Arduino sketch of the ESP8266 based controller to Github.

    Wiring is pretty simple, using a Sparkfun Thing and a single cell LiPo.

  • Schematic

    makeTVee06/12/2016 at 14:58 0 comments

    The schematic is now available. There are only three relevant connections:

    1. UART between Pi and Arduino (connected DTR-pin for programming the Arduino firmware from the Pi), with a simple voltage divider for 5V to 3.3V conversion
    2. SPI for the MAX7219 matrix display
    3. Serial connection from Arduino to the WS2812 stripes

  • Android app control

    makeTVee05/26/2016 at 20:40 1 comment

    Instead of the retro controller there is also a small Android app for game control. It provides the same functionality, so no additional controller hardware is needed if you already have an Android device.

    There is a video on Youtube showing the app in action:

  • Github

    makeTVee05/12/2016 at 19:33 0 comments

    Python code and Arduino sketch now on Github. I will add more documentation how to use the code within the next week.

  • Veneer application

    makeTVee05/11/2016 at 19:24 0 comments

    In reply to a comment, I will describe how to apply the veneer paper to the MDF matrix. The veneer I have used, is called Microwood, which is a 0.1 mm veneer with paper backing.

    Before the final full-surface bonding onto the MDF matrix, I did some pre-testing with the glue and the surface preparation of the MDF. To avoid paper curling after the adhesion, I used a solvent based all purpose adhesive (UHU black), which worked as expected. For testing purpose, the black laser cutting edge on the MDF surface was removed with sand paper:

    The following image shows the veneer glued on the MDF sanded off (right) in comparison to the veneer glued on the more or less black MDF. For me, this difference was not enough to polish all the MDF parts and the final result proved me right.

    Because of the paper backing, it is quite easy to apply the veneer and there is no problem with dissolving, although the veneer was rolled up when it arrived.

    If you have any questions, leave a comment.

  • CAD files

    makeTVee05/04/2016 at 15:49 0 comments

    I have now uploaded the DXF files of the MDF matrix. I have used 3mm MDF. The next version will be a combination of MDF and cardboard to save some cost.

View all 13 project logs

Enjoy this project?



stevemoseley wrote 05/13/2016 at 15:41 point

I've been looking for details for building something like this.  Looking forward to seeing more about it and diving into the details.

  Are you sure? yes | no

makeTVee wrote 05/18/2016 at 14:53 point

Sounds great, do you have an idea regarding the overall size and the number of leds for your project?

  Are you sure? yes | no

stevemoseley wrote 05/18/2016 at 16:43 point

Similar size to your project.  Just wanting something large that can be on the wall.  I was thinking a 5 to 6' tall field.  I was considering trying to program something that was only on an Arduino, but that might be a bit of a challenge for me.

I love the added score and next piece at the bottom.

I would like to have it switch between an LED clock mode and Tetris mode when not being played.  You could have the time rotated 90 degrees or have the hours stacked on top of the minutes.

Will you be adding more detail to the build?  I was hoping you would get it to the point that others would be able to use the information to build their own.


  Are you sure? yes | no

makeTVee wrote 05/19/2016 at 07:05 point

Sure, I will add more details for rebuilding. But during this process, I will also fix some issues from the first version, so it will take some time. 

And there are also some new features in the pipeline ;-)

From the programming side, it would be the easiest way to combine the Raspberry Pi with one of the availiable Arduino addon boards for the Pi and slightly adapt my software.

  Are you sure? yes | no

stevemoseley wrote 05/19/2016 at 18:38 point

MakeTVee - That would be great.  I look forward to the next improved version.

Thanks for your input.

Another thought I had was mounting the LED board on a swivel in the center so it can be rotated 90 degrees.  Might make using it as a digital clock a little more appropriate in landscape mode.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mclien wrote 04/25/2016 at 20:44 point

I would like to see a log with abit more detail about the veneer apply method, any fotos/ docu about that?

And a question (for the next Türtris Version) :  How  good is the length tolerance of the LED strips (how much difference after 1m/ 5m)?

  Are you sure? yes | no

makeTVee wrote 04/27/2016 at 16:24 point

I will address this veneer topic in one of my next logs. 

The length tolerance is an issue, there is an offset of minus 2-3 mm/m, but this offset is quite constant. 
For these longer strips, 50cm-strips are soldered together and there is some overlapping at the connection point. Might be avoided by re-soldering these points.

  Are you sure? yes | no

makeTVee wrote 05/11/2016 at 19:28 point

Now there is a log focused on the veneer topic. Hope that helps.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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