In praise of… Tetris

Editorial: Developed deep inside the Soviet Academy of Sciences, it has become, more than a quarter of a century later, the king of casual games

Since it was first invented 25 years ago, the video game Tetris has undertaken an epic journey. Developed deep inside the Soviet Academy of Sciences by a 29-year-old artificial intelligence researcher, Alexey Pajitnov, who was ­playing around with mathematical ­puzzles, it has become, more than a quarter of a century later, the king of casual games. Tetris has travelled from the computing equivalent of the stone age – a Soviet copy of an American minicomputer – to the Nintendo Game Boy and now to the phone – recently ­celebrating its 100 ­millionth download to a mobile. The concept is so simple – a series of differently shaped blocks fall from the top of the screen, which the player has to arrange in a line ­without gaps – that its durability has taken everyone by surprise, not least its inventor, Mr Pajitnov. There was no scoring or levels in the original version, but once you start playing you can not stop. Operating on the basic commercial principle that if he was addicted, others would be too, Mr Pajitnov began what became a mammoth quest to get the game ­marketed internationally. Initially the rights were owned by the Soviet state, and without a deal with Nintendo – and the help of Henk ­Rogers, a Dutch game designer – the game could have faded into obscurity, as many other games of the 1980s did. Mr ­Pajitnov remains surprised to this day about the success of his ­computer doodling. But no one in 25 years has come up with ­anything better.


The GuardianTramp

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