For more than 35 years, Tetris has brought joy to fans all over the world. Loved by all ages and cultures, billions of games are played online every year.
It’s a straightforward concept – randomly shaped blocks made of four squares drop down and the player has to rotate, move and drop the blocks to create horizontal lines without any breaks. Every ten lines created by the player increases the difficulty level, with play becoming faster and faster. It’s simple, captivating, and above all, totes addictive.
When we think Tetris, we remember playing it on our original Game Boy in the 90s, the colourful Tetrimino (the shapes) and of course, that theme tune. More than just a video game, Tetris is a cultural phenomenon, and we love it.
A short history of Tetris
Tetris was designed and created in Moscow by 27-year-old Alexey Pajitnov. Pajitnov was inspired by his favourite puzzle board game, Pentominos, and created an electronic game where players could arrange falling puzzle pieces in real time. He called the game ‘Tetris’, which was a mash up of the Greek word ‘tetra’, meaning ‘four’ and ‘tennis’ (Pajitnov’s favourite sport).
The game was released on June 6th, 1984. It was soon available on every video game console and operating system, but it really took off after becoming a big hit on the Game Boy in 1989.
Why is Tetris so addictive?
If you’ve ever played the game, you’ll know that the desire to keep playing again and again is strong. But what makes Tetris so darn moreish?
Speaking about the game on its 30th anniversary in 2014, Pajitnov said it is “a very simple game, but it appeals to many players because it’s both visually and intellectually challenging.”
“I think that’s what makes the game so addictive. We have an inherent desire to create order out of chaos, and Tetris satisfies that desire on a very basic level, while being easy to understand and quick to learn.”
The results of a study by the University of Sheffield were released on the same day. Dr Tom Stafford from the University’s Psychology Department explained that the game is so addictive because it appeals to the brain’s inclination to solve mini tasks, while teasing it with the prospect of completing more. This process feeds our brain’s desire to tidy up, and is as satisfying as ‘scratching an itch’. (Basically, it satisfies your inner Marie Kondo, which can only be a good thing in our book.)
The ‘Tetris Effect’
Regular players describe a fascinating psychological reaction to playing the game. If you spend long enough arranging those tricksy little shapes, they start to pattern your thoughts. Players find their thinking about the real world becomes ‘Tetrisified’ and they begin looking for ways to fit objects together, much as they would during a round of their favourite game. So, you might find a better way to load your dishwasher, or pack the boot of your car, by slotting everything together like Tetriminos. Or you might find yourself visualising how a set of buildings would all fit together. Some people even dream of falling Tetriminos! It’s a fascinating but totally harmless brain response.
Can it make you smarter?
In fact, some scientists argue that playing Tetris can improve your mental skills! A 1994 study by Ogaki and French showed that regular play could make your grey matter denser – the part of the brain linked to intelligence and many other abilities.
It’s also thought that regular play can improve spatial awareness (which means we really should be better at reverse parallel parking by now).
Celebs heart Tetris too
Celebs love Tetris too. Sir Patrick Stewart and Beyonce have both spoken of their love of the addictive game (well if Queen Bey says it’s a good idea…) and Taron Egerton (of Rocketman and Kingsman fame) has been filming a movie about the making of Tetris during lockdown. He’s been seen sporting a full 80s ‘tache to play Dutch entrepreneur Henk Rogers, who went through a legal battle for the rights to the game in the 80s.
If they love Tetris anywhere near as much as we do, we’ll bet some Tetris swag will have them buzzing.
This Tetris Hoody features a bold design with colourful Tetrimino on a bright white sweat. It’s soft, slouchy and the perfect thing to wear for a mega Tetris sesh. This Tetris T-shirt has all the retro feels going on, with the iconic logo and game screen on a stylish black tee. Pick up our other design in white and blue to cover both their day and night looks.
We may have started our Tetris obsession on the Game Boy, but now we’re most likely to be playing it on our phones. A Tetris Phone Cover with 3D Tetriminos, black backdrop and 2D shapes, or bright game grid and logo, tie your device and game together in a way that just feels right.