Your Thoughts on Tetris

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Matt Barton's picture

What are your thoughts on Tetris? Is it one of the world's greatest games? Why or why not?

I'm going to start putting the pieces together for our chapter on Tetris, and, as always, would appreciate your input. To my mind, the most important aspects are that it really helped mobile gaming get off the ground (or, at least, helped sell lots of Game Boys). I think it also led to the modern "casual gaming" scene, though I don't think it really affected adventure games like Myst. Puzzle games have become their own subgenre of casual gaming, along with the hidden object games others of its type. I suppose we can see a link to Bejeweled and games like that, though I'm hesitant because of the more intense/arcade like aspect of Tetris. A Tetris without that time factor just wouldn't be fun at all, whereas people can still enjoy Bejeweled and so on even without a time limit.

It might also be worth going into the Russian background, though I dislike the usual story about how the creator got "ripped off" and never earned a dime, etc. To my mind, this is really imposing a capitalist attitude towards a game created in a communist country. The guy couldn't have expected to make a fortune in Russia no matter what, so I just don't see the relevance of all that. What makes me laugh is that so many game developers argue that no one would make any games without the profit motive and ability to control the distribution, yet here's a game that certainly disproves that.

What does get more interesting is the vicious licensing rivalry between Nintendo and Atari (Tengen). It's kind of funny, really, all this wrangling over the "intellectual property" of a communist regime. Funny how fast communist principles go out the window when money is involved. :) I guess the dude should be happy he wasn't murdered by the KGB!

Anyway, what do you think is really important to say about Tetris? Did it really lead to a bunch of Tetris clones (I don't think so, really, though it did seem to create a market for other puzzle games).

Comments

Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
A perfect design

This is one of the few games that are really *perfect*, IMHO.

But why? Because
- it's simple to understand and learn (few rules, few buttons)
- it's easily scalable in difficulty by modifying the speed or showing a preview of the next block (or not).
- it's a successful marriage between reaction-based games and puzzle games (higher speeds shift it more into the twitch area, though)
- it doesn't need a high-powered system (no high cpu speeds, not much memory). A simple 8-bit machine with "some kind" of text mode display suffice - it doesn't need hi-res graphics and it doesn't even need sound. In fact it's not that easy to find games that demand less.

and most importantly:
- it appeals to the "I need to put things in order"-compulsion and the "I like to fill empty spaces"-feeling
(which may depend on your socialization, of course ;-)

@"Alexey Pajitnov"
Why should anybody have him murdered? The soviet state earned money because of him (not just "money" but foreign currency!) and because of the emerging glasnost policy in 1985 everybody had more important problems anyway.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
No one can deny that the

No one can deny that the Soviet Union was one f*ed up place when Pajitnov was living there. I guess it was even worse under Stalin, but I sure wouldn't have wanted to live there. I've been listening to lectures about the early days of the communist regime, and it's downright terrifying. I guess there's always the possibility, of course, that it wasn't so bad, it's just the anti-communist propaganda here in the U.S. that have made it seem so rotten.

I had a good friend from Russia for awhile in college, and he always said that people exaggerated how bad things were in Russia. The only thing he hated was that it took so long to get music and movies there--they were still listening to bands that had LOOONNNG gone out of style in the U.S.

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Tetris is a game you can

Matt, if you want to put the whole thing in some sort of political perspective I recommend you read up a little more. If you do want to take a political perspective please note that the break down of the communist regime and the effects it had on regular people calls for a more complex description of the situation than what your friend told you in college. Like Calibrator will probably know from the 'joining of the two Germanies' - the removal of the iron curtain didn't provide instant an instant sense of relief and people are still struggling with their 'freedom'. A lot of folk have not learned how to restrain themselves from indulgence because the lack of goods and services made that unnecessary. Now money can be borrowed, food and good can be acquired - the sky is the limit.... There's a lot of socioeconomic problems going on, still today. But I think that is outside the realm of the book.

The fact that Tetris was programmed by a Russian - who actually went on to produce the great Quircks (Windows 95 PC game) that is actually a Puyo Puyo game - is perhaps not so coincidental as it would seem. The level of innovation - getting limited hardware beyond its apparent capabilities - and love for hard-core programming that you find in Tetris is something you'll still find in Russia, Eastern European countries and Scandinavia. There's a lot of Polish demo groups still producing high-tech demos for the low-spec ZX Spectrum: featuring bump mapping, > 7 colours, 3d animation etc etc. So that a game like tetris actually originated in Russia - where with limited resources a great game was produced - might not be that coincidental.

A lot of clones where produced and it is fairly easy to program your own versions. I actually did some myself for the c64 and the pc way back (GW Basic, Qbasic - compiled and Turbo Pascal). At University it actually was a programming assignment - make your own Tetris game.

Tetris is a game you can play in instinct, reflexes at first. When it becomes faster it takes more planning and strategy. Because the game play is so easy to grasp it is an excellent introduction to video games - just like it has been for many many gamers in the world.



Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.
www.markvergeer.nl

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yakumo9275
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Joined: 12/26/2006
The best version of

The best version of 'tetris'.. Was Blockout the 3d tetris, that really owned... apart from that I have next to nothing to say on tetris and I never liked it.

-- Stu --

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I ended up not going into

I ended up not going into the whole Communist thing in the chapter, since (as you say) it'd take a lot more research than I have the time to do. Just stuck to the game, why it's fun, and a little about the licensing squabbles. I wanted to link it also to the rise of casual gaming. It's also notable for helping to sell mobile gaming to the masses.

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Yeah - that's probably for the best

Perhaps you could go a little into the games that where inspired by Tetris and/or the rise of the casual puzzle game ever since tetris.



Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.
www.markvergeer.nl

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Thanks
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Perhaps you could go a little into the games that where inspired by Tetris and/or the rise of the casual puzzle game ever since tetris.

The chapter is now to the tech reviewer. Thanks, guys. Matt actually did a good job. I only added in a few later games that I thought were important and my usual tweaks. The clock is ticking!



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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