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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: Tetris

I wanted to give all of you a little bit of a reward for following these posts over the past couple of months.  This blog has been a great release for me and has allowed me to process my thoughts in a public venue, so thank you for supporting this.  I hope to have a lot of fun with this blog, and I think today's entry will be one of those fun ones, with the inclusion of the application below!

I really wanted to post the actual game inside the blog post itself, but after attempting for nearly an hour to do so and having no luck with it, I had to post the link to it instead.

Either way, this post is all about Tetris!

By now, I'm sure that almost everyone has played at least one game of Tetris, or at the very least has heard of the game.  But, did you know that the concept of Tetris was discovered in Russia (which was a part of the fomer Soviet Union at the time) in 1984?

A man by the name of Alexey Pajitnov came up with the original Tetris game while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow, Russia.  (Try saying that five times fact).  On June 6, 1984, the Tetris video game was officially released in Russia, and two years later, in 1986, the game was brought over to North American shores.  Little did we know that over the years, the game would become so popular that people could end up playing it on their mobile phones, online, and various other sources.

Though the game had success on desktop computer consoles, it wasn't until the late 1980's that the Tetris game really started to take off in America.  In 1988, computer game publisher Henk Rogers happened to discover the game while he was in Las Vegas, attending the Consumers Electronics Show.  Having had the inside information that Nintendo was planning on releasing the Nintendo Game Boy, he wanted to get the attention of Minoru Arakawa, who at the time was the head for Nintendo of America.  He suggested that instead of going with the original plan to package the Game Boy with Super Mario Land, that they instead include Tetris.  His argument was that while a Super Mario title would attract the handheld console to male players, a puzzle game like Tetris could appeal to everyone.

Rogers secured the rights to the game from both Spectrum HoloByte and Tengen (which had secured the license to release the game in Japan).  He also got the attention of Robert Stein who had secured permission for both companies to distribute Tetris through company Mirrorsoft to seek rights for it to be distributed with the Game Boy.

It took some time for the deal to finally be reached, including a battle between Rogers and Kevin Maxwell for the rights to the Game Boy patent of Tetris, and a legal battle in the courts between Nintendo and Tengen, but in March of 1989, the deal was secured by Nintendo for all rights to the console and handheld versions of Tetris.

The Game Boy version of Tetris was released in August 1989, and over the next twenty years, has sold some 35 million copies.  Official Nintendo Magazine ranked the game #5 on their list of 100 Best Nintendo Games, and in August 2008, Nintendo Power Magazine said that Tetris meant more to handheld gaming than any other game.  Even the creator of Tetris has said that the 1989 Game Boy release was his favourite version, as it matched his original vision almost perfectly.

So, what made Tetris a success? 

Part of it was the puzzle aspect.

You have seven Tetris pieces that one must rotate and twist to form lines at the bottom of the screen.  Above, you will see them all.  They are the I-Block, J-Block, L-Block, O-Block, S-Block, T-Block, and Z-Block.  If you line them up in such a way that the line fills up the entire bottom, the line will disappear, and you will score points.  The more lines you clear at once, the more points you get.  It's simple enough to get a single line, and quite easy to get a double line.  Triples are a bit harder to master, for you can't create one without an I, J, or L-Block.  To get the Tetris (clearing four lines at once), only an I-block can assist you in that goal.  So, there's a lot of strategy involved in the game, especially since the blocks fall faster as the game progresses.  If the blocks reach the top, the game ends.

It's quite simple, really.

I know that I've played many, many games of Tetris in my lifetime thus far, and I can tell you that I'm a pretty decent player.  There's a website online called Tetris Friends, and on that site, you can compete with up to six players at once to beat them in a series of challenges.  On some, you race to get the highest score, or you have endurance competitions to see who can last the longest, or you race to clear 40 lines the quickest.  I haven't been on that site in forever, but whenever I did play, it was all business, and no pleasure.  I don't like to brag, but I slayed quite a few competitors on that site.

In fact, here's a screenshot of the Tetris Friends site, in case you haven't been.

Oh, and to add to the competition, you are encouraged to clear triples and Tetrises, because every one you do clear, you end up sabotaging your opponents by adding more lines to their own game.  Be warned though, they can attack you right back. 

In closing, it's important to realize just how much of an impact Tetris really has had in the world.  It's a simplistic puzzle game, but it has entertained gamers for almost thirty years now.  Perhaps what is most fascinating about the game is that it seems to have influenced pop culture so much.  Granted, this example below is in Spanish, but it was all that I could find.

And, to finish off this blog entry, one of the coolest Human Tetris videos I have ever seen!

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