Charlie Harvey

Happy 30th Birthday Tetris!

Can it really be 30 years since the screen of an Elektronkia 60 in Moscow first lit up with a series of tetrominoes dropping incessantly towards the Earth? Since tinny speakers first tinkled to the highly catchy eight bit faux soviet music of Tetris? Indeed it can. In 1984, Alexey Pajitnov unleashed Tetris on an unsuspecting word and somehow tesselating 2d shapes would never be quite the same again.

tetris screenshot
Tetris screenshot, from wikipedia. Thanks :-)

Tetris became an almost instant classic game, combining brutal simplicity with heroin-like addictiveness, and just a touch of silliness. Many a gamer emerged befuddled, red-eyed and hypnotically humming "doo dah dum dada doo dada dum dada doo da da da dahhdahh" after a long nights jiggling shapes. Sort of like this ten hour session.

Over the years Tetris has sold more than 170 million copies, been declared the "Greatest Game of All Time" and even been used to document the complete history of the Soviet Union.

Of course, cultural icons like Tetris often inspire Hollywood, surprisingly Tetris the movie never became the box-office phenomenon that many thought it should be.

Tetris inspired more than feature films — witness this powerful piece of performance art.

Tetris Facts

  • Tetris is a portmanteau word derived from the technical term for the shapes in the game (tetranominoes are polynominoes with 4 bits) and tennis, Pajitnov’s favourite sport.
  • In January 2009, an Oxford University research group headed by Dr. Emily Holmes reported in PLoS ONE that for healthy volunteers, playing Tetris soon after viewing traumatic material in the laboratory reduced the number of flashbacks to those scenes in the following week.
  • The theme tune is based on a Russian folk song called "Korobeiniki"
  • At the Department of Physics of Complex Systems in Amsterdam, they played a game of Tetris under an electron microscope. Who knows why?
  • The Tetris effect occurs when people devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images, and dreams.

And finally …

Of course, no article about Tetris would complete without some filthy tetris-themed 8-bit techno. Here goes then …


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