A Legend of Games, the 30th Year Anniversary of the Tetris.

Today, June 6th, is the 30th aniversary of the release of Tetris(Russian: Те́трис), one of the most popular video games in the world for last century. The Tetris is a Soviet tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov, who was inspired by another puzzle game. He derived its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (all of the game’s pieces contain four segments) and tennis, Pajitnov’s favorite sport.

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Without any doubt, the Tetris has become a legend in the video game history in the past 30 years. There are barely people who have not played it yet. But most of us don’t know the story behind it. The first Tetris was programed and created on an Elektronika 60 while working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences at their Computer Center in Moscow with Dmitry Pavlovsky, and Vadim Gerasimov ported it to the IBM PC. At first the computer could not display images with color bars but with letters. Then one year after, the Tetris was transplanted into MS-DOS, which became the fundamental interface for the next 30 years, only with some slight changes.

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On the game operations, there were many changes made on different transplanted versions for the first two years. For instance, whether the bar could be speed down, or the bars could be rotated clockwise or anticlockwise, or if the users could see the next bar image ahead, or even the design of “no rotating” when the bar is against the wall. All of these changes were made in respond to users feedbacks. 

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The Tetris not only made it one of the most popular video games, also the fights on copyright made it one of the most complex lawsuits in the world. By 1989, half a dozen different companies claimed rights to create and distribute the Tetris software for home computers, game consoles, and handheld systems. Elorg, meanwhile, held that none of the companies were legally entitled to produce an arcade version, and signed those rights over to Atari Games, while it signed non-Japanese console and handheld rights over to Nintendo. Tetris was on show at the January 1988 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it was picked up by Dutch games publisher Henk Rogers, then based in Japan, which eventually led to an agreement brokered with Nintendo that saw Tetris bundled with every Game Boy.

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However, Alexey Pajitnov, the original developer of this game, only got very little money from it. Alexey founded the The Tetris Company in 1996, claiming to hold copyright registrations for Tetris products in the U.S. and taking out trademark registrations for Tetris in almost every country in the world. They have licensed the brand to a number of companies, and the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Customs have at times issued seizure orders to preclude unlicensed Tetris-like games from being imported into the U.S., though bulletins circulated by the U.S. Copyright Office state that copyright does not apply to the rules of a game.

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There seven kinds of graphics called Tetriminos in the Tetris, two of which are mirrow and rotated images. Normally, users named the Tetriminos with the English letters that look like them,  I, J, L, O, Z, T, S. Surprisingly among those, L made the elects of the most favorite Tetrimino in this game for many times. The objective of the game is to manipulate these Tetriminos, by moving each one sideways and rotating it by 90-degree units, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of ten blocks without gaps. When such a line is created, it disappears, and any block above the deleted line will fall. When a certain number of lines are cleared, the game enters a new level. As the game progresses, each level causes the Tetriminos to fall faster, and the game ends when the stack of Tetriminos reaches the top of the playing field and no new Tetriminos are able to enter. Some games also end after a finite number of levels or lines.

 

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Sources:

Tetris. (2014, June 6). Wikipedia. Retrieved June 6, 2014. 

Gerdau, A. (2014, April 6). The World’s Biggest Tetris Game. The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2014.

游戏艺术. (n.d.). 第二十二期:俄罗斯方块的传奇历史. Retrieved June 6, 2014.

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12 thoughts on “A Legend of Games, the 30th Year Anniversary of the Tetris.

  1. Your post brings back my childhood memories. I remember myself competing with my dad every evening after school. I never get bored of it. It’s good to see how far it has come. From a handheld game to the Nintendo’s Game Boy and a Tetris application on smartphone today.

    Btw, this is the first time I play Tetris on my laptop. My score is 22941. Wish I’m not the weakest link ;p

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  2. I think it is very intersting how detailed the game of Tetris actually is after reading this. I’m pretty sure we have all played the game of Tetris before and this is a good explanation of the behind the scenes formats. It’s eye-opening to see how far digital technology has come. When we played Tetris as kids we used to be glued to the handheld for hours trying to get the highest score. Now the digital consumption is through social media with the current generation of children. It saddens me that this generation doesn’t embark in brain teasers such as Tetris. I think the digital adverts should get games like Tetris back in the forefront of our kids. It may not be the most educational game, but it still speaks to the brain. However, I think in the past it was easier to target a certain audience with certain ads; Now generations are very intertwined and social media is how we seek attention. For instance, kids are participating in what some may call adult life and vice versa. So now how does an entity such as Tetris frame an ad? Do they target the children? But adults like Tetris as well. It would be interesting to sit at a table with the advertising executives to hear what they think.

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    • Good point. We would not be surprised by a baby playing Angry Birds on an iPad or some-7-year-old cousin posting his picture on Facebook. Children have the access to all kinds of social media channels, which means that all the information in the social media will also permeate their minds. That’s an improvement to a fast-paced information society. But for the childhood aspect, we should ask them, “Is this what they really want and need?”

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  3. Thanks for your post! As a former Tetris addicted I really loved to read the story of this game and of the man who realized it. I am sorry…I was not so brave to play a game; I am terrified by the idea that I will spend the entire night playing …and I need to rest!!!

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  4. I was introduced to Tetris growing up in Israel. Very quickly this game became so popular that almost every household had at least one gaming unit. However, I’ve never known, till now that Tetris is a Soviet Invention. Considering that I was born in the USSR, and lived there until I was 10 years old, I’d expect to know such details. In my household, a certain “Mother-Land Pride” remained throughout the years. So it is very unusual that my parent haven’t made a big deal about Tetris being of Soviet origin. Nonetheless, I am going to mention this to my parents next time I’m talking to them, to see what they reaction would be.

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  5. I think Tetris is the best game because it is so simple. I am also convinced that if you are good at Tetris, you are a genius. That being said, I’m okay at it but not great.

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  6. Thank you Nan for retracing the story behind Tetris! The whole copyright issue is very interesting and I would definitely love to read more about that.
    Also, as a former tetris addict (I literally spent my entire childhood playing it) I am not very proud of my score: 28752. It is true though that it felt very weird playing it on my computer and not on a gameboy as I used to. Anyway, it was really fun and it definitely highlighted my gloomy day, so Thank you Nan!! 🙂

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  7. Tetris really brings back childhood memories for me. I think Tetris is one of those games that is going to continue making its impact on society no matter how complicated certain games become today. It is funny that Tetris is so simple, yet it has lasted for such a long time by being so simple and so universal.

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  8. I got this on my Tetris game – a reminder of the 30 year anniversary. This is an awesome blog and brings back childhood and today! It’s a great game and wonderful background information that you provided!

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  9. Tetris is such an addicting game, and its still a popular game that has longevity even in today’s society and how the digital world has took over and how everything more fast pace and innovative. This was very interesting to read!

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