'Tetris' still a videogame star at age 25

Jun 02, 2009 by Glenn Chapman
File photo shows a Japanese woman holding up a mobile phone with the game "Tetris". It was spring in what was then the Soviet Union when a mathematician in Moscow with a penchant for puzzles created a "Tetris" computer game still going strong 25 years later.

It was spring in what was then the Soviet Union when a mathematician in Moscow with a penchant for puzzles created a "Tetris" computer game still going strong 25 years later.

"For me, it was just a moment ago," said Alexey Pajitnov, who noted that he was 29 years old when he crafted the for Tetris in June 1984.

"I was very fascinated with all kinds of puzzles, brain teasers. Mainly, it was just a diversion from the main work," said Pajitnov, who was employed at the time at a government institute researching and computer .

He was inspired by a classic puzzle consisting of a box made of five plastic pieces that could be assembled in myriad ways. The challenge was to reassemble the box.

"It was really hard," Pajitnov said. "I was in love with this puzzle for a number of years. I was just fascinated by how to manipulate the pieces on the screen."

Pajitnov made a computer program that he came to call Tetris, which basically involves a player manipulating variously shaped blocks dropping along a screen with the goal of getting them to mesh into rows without gaps.

Blue Planet Software chief executive Henk Rogers was at a major Consumer Electronics Show in 1988 when he spied Tetris. He was scouring the event for videogames for the Japan market.

"My job was to find many games, but I kept coming back to Tetris," Rogers said. "I realized I was hooked on it. It totally mesmerized me."

Rogers arranged to publish versions of Tetris for computer games. Early in 1989, he and Minoru Arakawa of Nintendo of America went to Moscow to license the rights to the videogame.

Nintendo saw Tetris as an ideal fit for its Boy handheld devices.

Since Pajitnov's game was considered Russian property, licensing was negotiated with government officials.

"At that time, was a little behind," Arakawa recalled. "We brought computers, printers and lawyers with us so we could type the draft, change it and have a final copy to sign. It took a few days."

Tetris became a hit and has stayed that way, commanding about 10 percent of the market, according to Rogers.

"Tetris is so popular because it transcends culture," Rogers said. "There is no violence, no ideology; the player creates order out of chaos."

Rogers and Pajitnov kicked off a Tetris 25th anniversary celebration on Tuesday at the opening of a premier E3 videogame industry gathering in Los Angeles.

"It's awesome when you look at the industry and everyone spending millions on graphics and music and more and here we are with Tetris just kicking ass," Rogers said. "It is an enviable position."

Blue Planet is working on international Tetris Games along the lines of an Olympics or World Cup.

"We are looking to turn Tetris into a spectator sport," Rogers said.

Pajitnov now divides his time between homes in Moscow and Seattle.

He and Rogers, through Blue Planet, license Tetris rights to game makers such as Nintendo and Electronic Arts (EA).

"Tetris is the best selling mobile phone game of all time, showing continued growth year after year all around the world," said Adam Sussman, vice president of worldwide publishing for EA Mobile.

"Tetris has had "a significant impact on the entire video game industry," he added.

More than a million Tetris games are reportedly played daily at a tetrisfriends.com website launched in March.

"I never supposed it would be this big" Pajitnov said. "I was the best Tetris player in the world at one point. Now, I'm a good player but not a great player."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 20

Apr 23, 2009

Twenty years ago Japan's Nintendo Co. launched the Game Boy, the iconic handheld video game player that spawned characters from Super Mario to Pokemon and sold 200 million units worldwide.

'Tetris' may help reduce flashbacks to traumatic events

Jan 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Playing ‘Tetris’ after traumatic events could reduce the flashbacks experienced in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), preliminary research by Oxford University psychologists suggests.

Google gets its game on

Mar 26, 2009

Google got its game on late Wednesday, launching videogame-themed wallpaper for customized home pages and providing a glimpse at online play making its way to the website.

Video games shown to improve vision

Mar 15, 2007

According to a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored ...

Recommended for you

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

14 hours ago

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

Apr 18, 2014

The Google Android platform grabbed the majority of mobile phones in the US market in early 2014, as consumers all but abandoned non-smartphone handsets, a survey showed Friday.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

h0dges
not rated yet Jun 02, 2009
Yep, she sucks at tetris.

More news stories

TCS, Mitsubishi to create new Japan IT services firm

India's biggest outsourcing firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp said Monday they are teaming up to create a Japanese software services provider with annual revenues of $600 million.

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth

(Phys.org) —It's a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience professor John Valley dated an ancient crystal ...