Tetris by Kimberly Keyes Stark 

Tetris by Kimberly Keyes Stark

Tetris Screenshot

Last summer, as I was visiting the various stores while preparing for an upcoming out-of-town trip, I happened to step in a local mom-and-pop videogame store that has a huge selection of older games that you literally can't find at a Best Buy or GameStop anymore.

I happened to find an early 1990's Tetris cartridge for the GameBoy for $15 and I purchased it on the spot. When I got home, I managed to load that cartridge in my GameBoy Advance and playing that game brought back memories of when I was hooked on the arcade version back in the 1980's.

Two weeks ago, while I was waiting three hours for my car to go through its 22,000-mile checkup at the local Honda dealer, I pulled out my GameBoy Advance and played Tetris (along with other games like Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$), which made the three hours go by very fast.

I first discovered Tetris in a video arcade sometime in the mid-1980's. By that time I had gotten an undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Maryland and I was slogging away at a series of dead-end jobs because it was around the time that newspapers, magazines, and television stations first began to be bought up by bigger and bigger conglomerates and it frequently resulted in reporters being downsized and it was harder to find a journalism job. At that point my visits to the video arcades had dwindled from every day to once a week then two or threre times a month due to the fact that I had less time to kill now that I was working.

At the time the idea of anything showing up from the Eastern Block countries was considered rare and exotic. A few years earlier Rubik's Cube, a 3-D puzzle cube that was created in Hungary, was released in the United States and it launched a craze that came and went quickly (mainly because it was relatively hard to solve the puzzle). When Tetris first arrived, it also created a craze that was longer lasting (due to the fact that it was so easy that even a child could play it) and, to this day, anyone can pick up a Tetris game for computer, PDA, cell phone, Game Boy, or console.

Last summer, when I was visiting Ocean City, Maryland, I got a blast from the past in one of the arcades called Marty's Playland (located on the Boardwalk) when I saw a vintage Tetris arcade game right alongside other vintage arcade games from the early 1980's like Tron, Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Galaga, and Battlezone. The game still costs 25 cents to play and I got a kick out of hearing the Russian music as I played the game.

Tetris is one of those games where it's incredibly easy to learn yet hard to master. You must arrange bricks to form rows without the 'wall' getting too high, or game will abruptly end. You can rotate bricks so that they fit into the wall and once a row is complete it will disappear, thus lowering the wall. Eliminated rows will lower the number of lines you need to complete a level. Bricks fall faster in the higher levels and sometimes there are already bricks in the field that block your path.

Clearing four lines at once is known as a "Tetris" and you get a huge amount of points for achieving it. Often, when you try to make a Tetris (four rows of lines that are removed at once), you end up waiting a long time for the long red brick (the only way of completing a Tetris). It is interesting to note that every brick is made up of exactly four blocks.

Tetris is incredibly addicting. It's like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. At first the pieces drop down very slow and you're able to figure out where to put a particular piece. As the game progresses, the pieces drop down at a faster and faster rate until you literally only have a half-second to place the piece. The game sometimes throws loops where it'll drop down--let's say--a zig zag piece and you don't have an appropriate place where the zig zag piece can fit perfectly so you'll end up with awkward gaps. Or you could be looking for that long piece in order to make your rows go away and you have to wait a long time until the game gets around to dropping that piece.

The early Tetris games had Russian music (which further emphasized the game's Russian origins) that was pleasant to listen to while trying to play the game.

In some ways Tetris' arrival in the United States in the mid-1980's was no accident. It was also around the time that the Cold War began its gradual thaw. A world-wide anti-nuclear movement that have been around since the 1950's began to pick up steam in response to President Ronald Reagan's nuclear proliferation policy. An anti-nuke movement even sprang up in the Soviet Union but that movement was authorized by the government, which meant that it could call on the U.S. government to adopt an arms reduction policy but it was forbidden to demand the same of the Soviet government. (Some activists who were equally critical of the Soviet government's policies were arrested and sentenced to jail.)

Then Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union. He felt that the Soviet economy was suffering from decades of stagnation and he attempted to reform the entire system through his policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), which resulted in such innovations as allowing Soviet citizens the freedom to express their opinions in pubic without fear of arrest and lowering trade barriers between east and west. Soon afterwards the Soviet people began to revel in their new-found freedoms and people outside that nation warmed up to Gorbachev and his reform policies.

In 1985 a Soviet programmer named Alexey Pajitnov created Tetris on an Electronica 60 at the Moscow Academy of Science's Computer Center. It was ported to the IBM PC by Vadim Gerasimov. Tetris started to spread around Moscow and Pazhitnov becomes famous as a result.

By 1986 the game made its way to Hungary where it was discovered by Robert Stein, the president of the British software house Andromeda. Before he even tried to get the rights to Tetris from Pazhitnov, he sold the rights to the game to Mirrorsoft UK and Spectrum Holobytes. In the meantime Stein received a copyright for Tetris without contacting anyone in Russia first. On top of that, Mirrorsoft UK and Spectrum Holobytes began to sub-license their rights to other companies.

If that wasn't enough, all copyrights for computer games in the Soviet Union were made through one man, Evgeni Belikov at Elorg, the Russian ministry for the export of software, and all royalties were sent directly to the Soviet government, which did not believe in the idea of individual copyright. Belikov made his own demands for the rights to Tetris and he was outraged at the unauthorized Tetris games being released in the West. All of the authorized and unauthorized licenses touched off a whole slew of lawsuits all over the world and is documented fully in The Tetris Saga.

One result from all the authorized and unauthorized games is that Tetris became a big hit all over the world.

Pajitnov made nearly no money from Tetris but the Soviet government rewarded him with a very nice apartment and an 286-clone computer. In fact, he wouldn't begin to receive royalties until 1996, when he organized The Tetris Company LLC. In 1991 Pajitnov relocated to the United States, where he established his own company for game development. He was subequently hired by Microsoft as the first staff games designer and computer geeks can now make cheap jokes about Pajitnov moving from one evil empire (the Soviet Union) to another (Microsoft).

DISCLAIMER: This blog is based on one person's biased opinions of which videogames should be considered to be classics and why. It is not meant to provide a complete history of the videogame industry, the latest videogame news, technical support, or hints on how to play a certain videogame. None of the videogame manufacturers or programmers mentioned here have endorsed or supported this blog in any way, shape, or form.

NOTE: If there are any errors or updates to what I have written about this entry, please send an e-mail to [link=mailto:kstarkREMOVE-ALL-CAPS-IF-NOT-SPAM@erols.com]kstarkREMOVE-ALL-CAPS-IF-NOT-SPAM@erols.com[/link] (remember to remove the capital letters from my mailing address before sending or else it will get rejected) and I'll edit this piece when time permits.




Tetris Blast


Magical Tetris Challenge

Tetris Dx


Tetris Worlds


Tetris Worlds



Tetris 2


Magical Tetris Challenge

The New Tetris


Handmark Tetris Classic Game Pak

Pocket Express Entertainment Pack Plus

Tetris Classic Game Pak


Magical Tetris Challenge

The Next Tetris

Tetris Plus


Tetris Worlds


Handmark Tetris Classic Game Pak


The Next Tetris


Tetris Plus


Tetris Attack

Tetris & Dr. Mario

Tetris 2


Galaxy of 3D Tetrimania

The Next Tetris

Tetris Worlds


Tetris Online

Tetris Worlds


Tetris.com--The official site of The Tetris Company LLC, the company that was formed by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov to administer all legal rights to the game. The site includes a list of all the various official Tetris versions that are currently available.

The Tetris Saga--Provides a brief history of the game, including all of the legal wrangling that resulted from it.

Tetris: A Chip Off the Old Block--A BBC News story about the game and its inventor, Alexey Pajitnov.

The Internet Movie Database's Information on Tetris

The Killer List of Videogames' Tetris (Atari) Exhibit

The Killer List of Videogames' Tetris (Sega) Exhibit

The Killer List of Videogames' Tetris Plus Exhibit

The Killer List of Videogames' Tetris Plus 2 Exhibit

The Killer List of Videogames' Tetris: The Grand Master Exhibit

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Comment How can I download this tetris version (the one on the picture), for free???

Fri May 20, 2005 6:11 am MST by tulio


Thu Jul 22, 2004 4:44 am MST by online casinos

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