30 Years of Tetris

Our favorite moments from the classic brick-stacking, addicting video game

June 6, 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Tetris, the Russian (or Soviet)-based tile-matching video game that took the world by storm. With releases on almost every gaming platform known to man (including new ones for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4), it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t played Tetris at least once. Join us on a journey of our favorite parts from this game.

The game and its creator

Tetris was developed by Alexey Pajitnov, with the assistance of Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov, as part of the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre, a Soviet government-founded research & Development Center. The game itself is simple to learn - the geometric game pieces fall down a vertical shaft one at a time, and the player tries to create a single horizontal line without any gaps in them (in order to clear the level). Pieces slowly pile up on each other if they don’t create that 10-block line, eventually “topping out” at the top and ending the game.

Explosion worldwide

The game was already pretty popular on computers and in arcades, but the 1989 release of the Nintendo GameBoy and its handheld version of Tetris helped it achieve worldwide recognition and popularity. The game holds the Guinness World Record for the “Most Ported Computer Game”, as it has been translated to more than 65 different computer game platforms, including mobile phones.

Sequels and variants

The popularity of the game spawned many sequels (some created by Pajitnov, others created by copycats, others variations - such as Dr. Mario or Klax), as well as launching the “casual game” phenomenon. It’s not hard to argue that the addictive nature of Tetris helped create today’s addicting Facebook and iPhone/iPad games, such as Angry Birds and/or Candy Crush Saga.

Credit: YouTube.com
The Tetris effect and psychology

Not only is the game addicting, but it also spawned a condition called “The Tetris Effect” (or Tetris Syndrome), described as “when people devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images and dreams”. In this video, the University of Sheffield’s Dr. Tom Stafford talks about “why such a simple game is so compelling,” revealing the psychology behind the appeal of this 30-year-old game.

Credit: YouTube.com
Playing Tetris on Buildings

Last year, the “Biggest Game of Tetris Ever” was played on the side of Philadelphia’s Cira Center Building, using LEDs as its “pixel display.” A Tetris Hack was also done at MIT.

Credit: YouTube.com
Human Tetris

In this time-lapse video on YouTube (more than 14.2 million views), we see a bunch of humans sitting in an auditorium “playing” the game via stop-motion. This was created by Swiss artist Guillaume Reymond as part of the NOTsoNOISY creative agency.

Pop-culture references

In the 1999 movie “Office Space” Ron Livingston’s Peter plays Tetris on his computer while his boss, Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh, tries to talk to him about work. Other appearances of the game included references in The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama (the New York Post highlights a bunch of its favorites here).

Credit: YouTube.com
Olympics honor

At the closing ceremony of this year’s Sochi Winter Paralympics, people and graphics helped spell out the word “Impossible” with Tetris-inspired blocks.

Credit: YouTube.com
Speed Tetris - for the insane

In this video, watch a “speed run” of the Official World Record score for the NES Tetris version - 999,999 points.

Want to play?

Check out FreeTetris.Org, a Flash-based site that lets you scratch your Tetris itch. Or check out the official Tetris site for more 30th-anniversary activities and events.