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.

Enjoying the A to Z Challenge? Why not try out these other participating blogs?

Nerd Block Unboxing and Review for December 2014

It is the final Nerd Block of the year, everyone! Are you excited? I was pretty excited when it arrived in the mail, but was my excitement warranted? Let’s find out, shall we?

What did you think of the unboxing? Was it a good block or a bad one? Let’s take a look at the breakdown:

Hellraiser Inferno shirt: The first item in the box was a t-shirt, and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s not really a bad-looking shirt, but it’s based on one of the worst films in the Hellraiser series. As such, I’m going to give it a slightly lower “value” than I usually give t-shirts; let’s say about $10.
Harry Potter “Butterbeer” shirt: The second t-shirt in the box is more my style. It’s a much different kind of shirt than what I normally wear, but it’s still a Harry Potter reference and I’m actually a little amused that it’s red because usually all my shirts come in black, so there’s that as well. I’ll give this shirt the usual value of $15.
Gizmo plush toy: The adorable little gremlin from the movie of the same name is a welcome addition to this month’s block. He’s a well-made toy and looks just like the movie character, so the quality was there. Unfortunately there are about a hundred slightly-different versions of this toy on the internet so I can’t be certain that I’m finding the proper value for this particular one. However, based on my findings and the fact that it’s a very nicely made toy, I feel confident in assigning a value of at least $12.
Kre-O Dungeons and Dragons mini-fig: As mentioned in the video, I am getting really sick of getting these kinds of things in my subscription boxes. Every now and then is cute, but when they come in almost every box you really start to feel like they’re a super-cheap way of adding another item to the box. These little blind-bag expansion packs go for somewhere between $3 and $4, and I’m going to go ahead and assign it the $3 because, man, to hell with these things already.
Tetris notebook: I’m more amused by this than I probably should be, but that’s because I grew up with Tetris, and also because I”m a writer who can always use more notebooks. Lovin’ this cute little tetrimino-edged notebook, and if you’d like your very own they go at a cost of about $10.
Val Kilmer signed “Willow” print: Things like this are difficult to put a value on, but it’s made a little easier by the fact that it’s not really a “real” signature. Yeah, it’s Kilmer’s signature, but it’s a photocopy, which makes it effectively worth nothing. I’ll give a value of about $2 to the print, even though I’ve never seen Willow so it doesn’t really mean anything to me.

Total approximate value of box: $52
Total cost to me: $33

So in the end the final Nerd Block of the year wasn’t any better or worse than any of the other boxes I received throughout the year so far. The value isn’t bad, but a few of the items are annoying to me. I swear if I get one more building-block-brand blind-bag mini-fig I’m going to scream, and while some people might find the signed print cool, to me a signed print doesn’t really mean anything if it’s not real ink directly from the pen of the person doing the signing. Anyone can print out a photocopy, after all. But, then again, I love the Butterbeer shirt, the Gizmo plush, and the Tetris notebook, and those three things make up the cost of the box, so I guess it works out okay in the end.

All in all, I’ve had some ups and downs with Nerd Block since I began getting it in the summer of this year, and if I’m completely honest I was totally planning to cancel the subscription after this month. However my husband enjoys getting the boxes too, and he’s interested to see what they’ll be like when they start officially incorporating themes next month, so I guess we’ll be continuing to get them for at least a little while longer.