Tetris is a game that has been synonymous with the concept of video-game classics for decades. While it is a game with a simple concept, no matter what way you look at it, Tetris is a piece of history and has played a crucial role in pushing the popularity of video-games since it came out in the mid-1980s. It is so influential, that it is almost impossible to find a person anywhere in the world today that has not at least heard of it.
Even though Tetris has gained worldwide popularity and a permanent spot in pop-culture, there is still a lot of trivia about it that not everyone may know. In order to truly appreciate this invaluable part of gaming history, let us look at ten fun facts about this arcade classic and its history so you could better understand what makes it so special.
10 The Tetris Blocks Have Names
Although naming lifeless colored shapes made out of blocks may seem like an arbitrary and pointless decision, there is a reason behind it. Unlike other arcade games giving certain characters names just for the sake of it, for example, the ghosts in Pac-Man, giving the different shapes in Tetris names served an important purpose
Back in the day when Tetris was only becoming popular, the blocks did not have their own specific colors that people could use when referring to a specific shape. In order to avoid confusion, the blocks were given names that are self-explanatory. One of the most popular ways to name the blocks is to call them as the letter of the alphabet that they resemble: I, O, L, J, S, Z, and T. Tetris is an incredibly popular game, so the names of some of the pieces have had numerous variations throughout time, some of which are completely made up.
9 It Was Made For Fun
Sure, creating a game back in the mid to late 1980s was no easy task, and usually required that the ones involved had dedication for the project. Coming up with interesting concepts for a game that would have potential, and then translating it into a working game demanded a lot of time. What's interesting about Tetris is that its creator, Alexey Pajitnov, created it just to see if he could.
It is very likely that the quick growth of the project's popularity was caused by Pajitnov creating Tetris for fun, and not profit. He first shared the game with his co-workers in Moscow, who then proceeded to make copies of the game and passing it on to others, making the game spread through the city rapidly. Eventually, Pajitnov shared a copy of the game with a colleague in Hungary, where it was noticed by the owner of Andromeda Software Ltd., Robert Stein. This just comes to show that sometimes a project can become incredibly successful, even if you're just making something in your spare time with no hopes of it bringing you fame or riches.
8 The Creator Didn't Earn A Penny For Years
It would probably come as a surprise to most that the creator of one of the most popular games in the world did not receive any financial gain from it for over a decade. While it may be mind-boggling, it is important to remember the historical context of when Tetris was created. Being a Russian student in Moscow Pajitnov created Tetris in 1984, meaning that official distribution of the game outside of the Soviet Union would have to go through a Soviet agency known as Elorg.
Because the game was initially shared freely between colleagues, and later distributed by the state-controlled Elorg, Pajitnov had virtually no say in the deals that were being made. This included the deal made between Robert Stein and Elorg, which led to Tetris being the first Soviet-made software to be ever sold in America, as well as a deal with Henk Rogers who licensed handheld rights to Nintendo. Due to Pajitnov being excluded in these deals because of Elorg, it is estimated that he missed out on around $40 million until Rogers helped him move to the United States.
7 Seeing The Blocks When They're Not There
When we are exposed to creative mediums such as books, movies or games, our imaginations tend to spike, making us sometimes feel inspired by the creativity in the mediums to create something of our own. However, in this case, the concept behind Tetris is so simple, namely the simplicity of the different blocks in the game, that your brain doesn't forget exactly what they look like.
Seeing the different shapes or blocks used in Tetris long after putting the game down has been observed among players, and has been called as the "Tetris effect" or the "Tetris syndrome". While it isn't strange that the syndrome makes avid players see the blocks in their dreams, the other half may seem less normal. Players of Tetris who have experienced the "Tetris effect" also claim to see real-life objects as Tetris blocks, thinking about how they could be rearranged in order to fit together perfectly. It's probably a great side-effect to have when packing bags during vacation!
6 Playing It Often Could Lead To Benefits
Unsurprisingly, due to the popularity of the game, there have been numerous studies on the effects that playing a lot of Tetris can have on people. While it may seem to some that the "Tetris syndrome" would be an annoyance to have, since not everyone would enjoy seeing their household items as shapes resembling Tetris blocks, there are other observed side-effects that are more beneficial.
A research study has found evidence that playing Tetris actually reduced the participants' cravings for food, as well as alcohol or drugs. While this does sound very positive, there were also reductions in cravings for activities such as exercise or even gaming. Who could have guessed that such an innocent game could be used as an example of what could be considered as a double-edged sword?
5 It Holds An Impressive Guinness World Record
These days everyone has heard of strange or obscure world records that make us scratch our heads and either wonder why there is a record for that in the first place, why people are impressed with it, or if we could beat it ourselves in our bedrooms. However, as it stands right now, Tetris seems to hold a world record regarding video-games that no game will beat any time soon, or possibly ever!
The world record in question is that of "The Most Ported Video-Game" that Tetris earned by having 65 different ports. Not only does this mean that Tetris is incredibly popular (as we already know), but also that there is probably no video-game platform that did not receive a port of one or multiple versions of the game. Who would have thought that a game that came out 35 years ago would still be spreading through modern gaming consoles and smartphones as fast as it did on floppy disks back in the mid-1980s?
4 There Exists A Competitive Scene
Modern competitive video-games are extremely popular since they are built around intense mechanics where the players compete against each other to see who is better. Competitive games, in general, have existed since ancient times, but for some reason, Tetris is generally not a game that comes to mind when listing off games with competitive scenes.
Although it might not surprise everyone that gamers who love Tetris would end up wanting to compete with others, it might come as a shock to some that eSports tournaments of this arcade classic rack up a ton of attention, both live and as views on social media. One of the most popular videos of a Tetris show-down between two skilled players is from a tournament held in 2015, having over 10 million views on YouTube!
3 The First Game That Was Played In Space
Yes, you read that right - Tetris holds the title of being the first video-game ever to have been played in outer space. It was the Russian Cosmonaut named Aleksandr A. Serebrov who brought a Game Boy with him as well as a cartridge of Tetris. By playing it onboard the MIR Space Station, and most likely letting the other members of his crew give it a whirl as well, Serebrov made Tetris the first video-game ever to be played outside our own planet back in 1993.
This, of course, would catch the attention of any collector, making both the Game Boy and the cartridge quite valuable. After spending a bit over 196 days in the MIR Space Station, the console and cartridge were auctioned off in 1996 as part of the Russian Space History auction, and again in 2011 for $1220. While it is far from the most expensive collectible piece of gaming history, it would definitely be priceless to any avid player of Tetris.
2 It Can Be Used To Treat Or Prevent PTSD
As if this legendary piece of gaming history did not come with enough perks, studies have found that playing Tetris can help people to deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the studies, playing the game has the potential to treat already existing cases of PTSD, or help prevent it from forming altogether.
By playing Tetris a short time after a traumatic event, for example, people can prevent their own brains from looping the memory in their head by keeping it occupied with a game that has simple graphics, thus making it easy to imagine and visualize, but also challenging enough to keep the players' focus.
1 It Is Considered As The Best Selling Game Of All Time
If the previously mentioned records did not surprise you, then this one just might. Tetris has always sold like hotcakes, having reached sales numbers of 35 million copies in 1989, just 5 years after it came out. This is in part due to Rogers' dedication to acquire the rights of the game, and his skills in negotiation while trying to sell the handheld rights to Nintendo.
While this does sound impressive, it gets even better. As time went on, the popularity of this timeless gem never dwindled, and in fact, seems to grow larger still. An example of this is the statistics of the game's sales on mobile devices, which in 2014 were over 425 million paid downloads. The best part is that the actual number of copies of Tetris sold can never be counted accurately - the enormous amount of ports, as well as pirated or shared copies ever since it was first made, makes it so that no one can truly say how many copies truly exist.