273: Tetramino, Falling

Tetramino, Falling

Tetris is a masterpiece of gaming art. Robert Buerkle outlines exactly why the Russian puzzle game should rank among the quintessential works of art of the 20th Century.

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Very well written. I will defend to this day EGM's old article from many years ago declaring Tetris to be the greatest (defined there as most influential) video game of all time, and I believe it still is. This article proves that point even more.

More directly, just like it says, Tetris gets into your brain. I looked at the image accompanying this article and immediately starting planning where I would put that T-block (would it complete a line? Or is that two spaces next to the L? Put it there anyway or stack to the right?)

Long live Pajitnov's magnum opus.

So, I'm starting to think I'm the only one who thinks Tetris is the most boring puzzle game he's ever played... *flees*

So, I'm starting to think I'm the only one who thinks Tetris is the most boring puzzle game he's ever played... *flees*

I never liked the game. Maybe finished a level or two back when I had it on NES... it sucks, really. Only thing going for it is the song.

I wonder how many play-hours this game has clocked up in its life span?

I'd like to see some kind of estimate - even a wild one.

That's a pretty interesting take on the subject and one I wouldn't mind seeing a little more depth too. Well done, sir.

I wonder how many play-hours this game has clocked up in its life span?

I'd like to see some kind of estimate - even a wild one.

Ok, well, given that the Halo Reach hit 2318 years in a week, and Tetris was released 25 years ago, that's 3,013,400 years. Given that Reach only hits those who are both gamers (I find it unlikely to appeal to people who don't like video games as a whole) and own a 360 (though not all 360 owners), this number is likely low as Tetris appeals to just about everyone and is playable on everything from specially made Tetris handheld devices to cell phones to PS3s, 360s, and modern computers. Also, Tetris is easy to find for free.

If you assume that most people in the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan have played tetris for at least an hour during 2010, you get 171,232 years of play time, give or take. That gives you 4.2 million years of play time over the 25 years it has been released, ignoring for growth in population (which is pretty big) so let's say that ends up being about 3 million years again.

However, the question remains, how many people never play it versus how many people play it for several hours or even days over the course of their life.

With this in mind, with the numbers I just used in mind, with my skills of a statistician in mind (low to none), and with the initial question saying that "even a wild one" would be an acceptable answer in mind, I say the time is probably around 10 million years.

And frankly, I still think that's probably low.

An breakdown about theories as to why a game is the way it is. A 25 year old game, which has hit several iterations of game systems, cell phones, not-so modern computers, web browsers, and reinvented with twists, some major, some minor.

I could see an overview of Tetris variants being a three page topic. From Monty Python's bury the bodies where the long straight piece randomly moves, to wild variants, such as Facetris, and Tetris 3-d. I could see the variations on the basics of Tetris itself being about half a page, from the down is an instant drop, up is a turn. It could also feature the form of down speeds up the drop, and two buttons are used to turn in two different directions(clockwise and counterclockwise).

I found the regular mode of Tetris to be mildly interesting, clear 10 lines, pieces go faster, repeat. It leads to a lot of repetition though. The clear X number of lines(25 in the norm I think) with Y number of randomly placed single pieces was more interesting, and provided solid challenges for players of all skill levels.

Of course, the skills you may learn could be fun as well. Planning ahead, logical thinking, space management, and more can be yours with just this one game. Now that I think about it, I can see why Tetris lasted so long.

Yeah, Tetris is definitively the most... videogamic videogame. It borrows no elements from other media, except maybe color (which is a pretty useful tool for videogame itself, and unnecessary anyway). It's simple puzzle being kept score of by a computer. It changes randomly, allowing for a different experience every time; it rewards knowledge of the rules and foresight (since most variants tell you one to three upcoming pieces); it allows a small number of possible actions to have a great breadth; and it rewards logical play over twitch response, although later levels will need both.

Oh, and from a game design perspective, it comes from a needless restriction that makes the gameplay much tighter: every piece has four blocks, and every four-block piece is available. (That's why it's called Tetris. Not everyone knows that.)

My favourite Tetris-related trivia is that researchers theorized that dreams are used by the subconscious as a means of problem resolution because when analyzing Tetris dreamers they realized they dreamt the most often of the pieces they had the hardest time placing. (The article didn't say, but I'm pretty sure it was zigzag. DAMN YOU ZIGZAG)

I want to say I wish more games would follow Tetris' lead and attempt to succeed on gaming's grounds rather than on movies' as they have been trying lately, but that's a pretty all order.

Most definitely. Having read this article, I found a quick online version of Tetris, and accrued a good 200 lines before making a big oops and watching the chaos pile on too quickly for me to deal with. Although, my favorite use of the tetronimoes was their use to solve thermodynamic problems of entropy and chaos. By making the classic seven pieces fall randomly, the were able to model entropic systems. How awesome is that?

Here's a link to what I've referenced:


I guess I never really got Tetris... and never will. To me Tetris can be a good timekiller but I find nothing outstanding about it. It is simple, but complex in its simplicity. However I cannot find any particular underlying metaphysical statement of any kind.

Tetris is definitely a cool way to let out some OCD tendencies and gain a bit of control in an oft orderless world. I had never thought so much about Tetris before.

I would have perished from boredom in math class long ago if it were not for calculator supplied Tetris.

I owe it my life.

Damn, it's amazing how much thought people put into a game about some falling blocks! While I can respect its influence, I never got into any of the old tetris games back in the day because I was turned off by the fact that they were unbeatable. They were kind of repetitive too - you always tried to drop a long block down the side to get 4 rows at one time.

Although, I actually did love Yoshi Tetris on the SNES because of its story mode and cuteness! My sister and I always played it and we both totally had those dreams with blocks. I would see them everytime after closing my eyes, it was cool!

So I was going write this post about how the article made me realize that Tetris is a work of art of pure gameplay, not because of any meaning it has or some silly interpretations people came up with... but then the last few paragraphs of the article said it for me. How often do you get ninja'd by the article itself? XD Still, I hadn't ever really thought of gameplay as an art form on its own before, so that's pretty cool.

I'm kinda sad that the Tetris version that came with Ubuntu has such messed up controls. The pieces simply don't move sideways fast enough, so it starts to get unplayable just around the point where it's getting fast enough to be interesting. :( I guess I could fix it myself, given that it is open source and all... but I'm much more likely to just find some new AAAs for my good old TI-89 and play the real version. :)

Yes, I consider the TI-89 version the One True Tetris. Hey, don't look at me like that! :P

So, back to the article a sec; it almost said something I found interesting: The way video games can imitate movies but don't have to has a lot in common with the relationship between paintings and photographs.

Although, my favorite use of the tetronimoes was their use to solve thermodynamic problems of entropy and chaos. By making the classic seven pieces fall randomly, the were able to model entropic systems. How awesome is that?

Really awesome.

A poster on this forum once proclaimed to me that a game can't be art if it doesn't provide a competent "story". Which is of course complete nonsense. I pointed Tetris out to him as a counter. (This happened a few weeks ago).

Nice to see I'm not alone. ^.^

I had a great-uncle who played Tetris nearly every day of his life and kept his high score on a small strip of paper taped to his Game Boy. His children bought him other games for Christmas and his birthday, but he never played them. It was always just Tetris; so many hours of it he wore off all texture on the D-pad.

He passed away while I was young, but I wish I knew where that Game Boy was and if it still has his final high score stuck to it. That thing is a relic.

I wonder how many play-hours this game has clocked up in its life span?

I'd like to see some kind of estimate - even a wild one.

42 years, 3 months, 12 days, 1 hour, 54 minutes and 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds....

To this day, I still hold that Tetris is the greatest game ever made.

Another great thoughtful (if not scholarly) review is the magnificently sprawling and tangent-filled review by Tim Rogers at action button dot net. I love his bizarre reviews and his review of Tetris is no exception:

I thank you for your wild estimate! I wouldn't even know where to begin.

I'm gunna see if I can find that Super Tetris (I think) game that I had an ancient PC, I liked the music that it had.

Great article!

I think it is key to the discussion of games-as-art to identify their use of "videogamic" qualities (althought we might want to coin a better term). In this debate, sometimes people point to the fantastic visuals (whether realistic or abstract), sounds and music, the engaging stories, or the production values matching those of films. These things are videogames incorporating other forms of art. Videogames as their own art depend on "videogamic" qualities; the importance of what you do as opposed to what you see, hear, or even feel.

A compelling case for videogames as art, I particularly like how it makes the distinction that videogames are an artform in a way all their own that you can't really compare with other forms of art.

Fantastic article which deserves more comments. I never really thought about it under the games-as-art category, but tetris definitely fits and is perhaps one of the best examples. Also, that study about people with amnesia having tetris dreams is... crazy. It happens more to me when I go on DDR binges, but I totally understand.


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