A to Z Challenge: (T)etris

TetrisWhether you’re a casual gamer or a hardcore gamer – or you’re really not even a gamer at all – pretty much everyone has heard of Tetris. It’s one of those pop-culturally relevant things like Star Wars or Ninja Turtles; even if you were never into it yourself, you likely know someone who was, or at the very least you can hear the world and not be completely bewildered by it.

So what’s the story behind this iconic piece of gaming and pop culture history? Well, it all started in 1984 with a man who loved the puzzle board game, Pentominos. Oh, and did I mention that he also happened to program computer games for the expressed purpose of testing the capabilities of USSR equipment? Having both the skills and the motivation, Alexey Pajitnov decided that he was going to design a game for himself, based on Pentominos. After deciding that the game should challenge players to arrange puzzle pieces under pressure, he created the iconic seven distinct geometric pieces that we know and love (or hate, if you were never really very good at Tetris). The name ‘Tetris’ comes from a combination of “tetra” (the Greek word for “four”, to represent the fact that each geometric piece is made of four squares), and “tennis”, which was Pajitnov’s favorite sport.

The finished game was created on an Electronica 60 at the Moscow Academy of Science in 1985 and soon became the subject of lots and lots of legal battles. See, it was ported to the IBM PC, and eventually worked its way to Budapest, where it was ported to the Apple II and Commodore 64. From here the president of a British software company took notice, and planned to buy the rights to the game from Pajitnov. However, before even contacting Pajitnov, he turns around and sells the rights to the game to Mirrorsoft UK and their affiliate, Spectrum Holobyte (USA). From there you can imagine how badly this mistake got out of control.

But despite rampant licensing messes and the downfall of more than a couple of companies, ‘Tetris’ eventually made its way onto Nintendo’s blockbuster handheld system, the Gameboy, in 1989, and North Americans haven’t stopped playing it since. The simple idea of fitting shapes together like puzzle pieces, combined with the difficulty of gradually increasing speed, has captured several generations of gamers and non-gamers alike. ‘Tetris’ has been ported – mostly unchanged – to every possible platform; it can even be played for free online, and is available as a free downloadable app on iOS and Android devices. It’s staying power is truly magnificent. And also, it’s existence brought about things like this:

…which is just amazing.

Myself? You’re damn right I’ve played my fair share of Tetris over the years. I owned a cartridge for my first Gameboy (which I think I lost…damn it), and have seen fit to play the game on a number of devices over the years…there’s currently one version on my Samsung phone. It’s one of those games that you just go back to every now and then because it’s familiar, easy to pick up, and keeps you busy for a few minutes when you need to be kept busy. I suspect it will probably stand the test of time for quite a few years to come.

Have you ever played Tetris? Please tell me you’ve played Tetris. I will seriously be sad if anyone comments on this post and tells me that they’ve NEVER played Tetris. Lie to me. Please share, but lie to me.

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14 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: (T)etris

  1. I LOVE Tetris! Played it a ton when it first came out, so much so that I could easily beat everyone in my family, including my parents. Now I’ve picked it up again on a tablet and had fun showing my twins, who also love it!

    Thanks for the history of this game. Very interesting!

    • No problem! XD
      My daughter found Tetris on my phone one day and she loves it too. The only thing is she doesn’t really understand it, exactly (she’s only four, after all), so she mostly just throws the pieces down until the screen fills up and announces that she “won”. lol

  2. Tetris is one of those super dangerous games for me, because if I’m in a mood, I will sit and play for hours just trying to beat my last score. I remember one particularly crabby day in college, I went down to the basement to play at noon, and when I emerged from the cave, it was dark out. I had played Tetris for eight straight hours. It’s like crack, man. “I’ll stop after the next level….I’ll stop after the next level….”

    • Holy heck, that’s one hell of a gaming session! Although I can’t really say anything myself…the only reason that I don’t get deep into games and never come out is because I’m always surrounded by people (husband, daughter, coworkers) who are ready and willing to drag me away kicking and screaming if I sit with a game for more than half an hour. >.>

      • LOL- I have to admit even that hasn’t stopped me. At one point after I received Lego Star Wars for Christmas, I was two levels from beating the game. I had been playing the bedroom for three hours, the sun had gone down, and it was just me (intensely playing) in a dark room with the tv. Andrea came in to ask me something and I said, “No. Get out.”

        Mother of the Year, right here.

  3. I had (still have) the NES Tetris, and now I am forever unable to hear the music from “The Nutcracker” without seeing falling blocks in my head.
    Also Tetris 2 on NES, Tetris World on Gamcube, Tetrix Axis on 3DS, at least one Tetris game on Android…and “Tetris Attack” on Gameboy, which is actually Panel de Pon with a Yoshi theme and nothing like Tetris at all.
    And I made a Tetris themed stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s stage builder.

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