Tetris, the tile-matching puzzle video game, turns 29 years old on June 6.
Originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. He coined the game’s name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (all of the game’s pieces contain four segments) and tennis, his favourite sport.
Tetris was also the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the US, initially for Commodore 64 and IBM PC.
The game (or one of its many variants) is now available for nearly every video game console and computer operating system, as well as on devices such as graphing calculators, mobile phones, portable media players, PDAs, Network music players and even as an Easter egg on non-media products like oscilloscopes.
While versions of Tetris were sold for a range of 1980s home computer platforms as well as for arcades, it was the hugely successful handheld version for the Game Boy launched in 1989 that cemented the game’s popularity. In January 2010, it was announced that Tetris has sold more than 100 million copies for cell phones alone since 2005. The game has achieved cult status over the years; it has been played under an electron microscope by researchers wanting to play the smallest ever game of Tetris at the Department of Physics of Complex Systems in Amsterdam. It has been the focus of philosophical discussions, such as John Brzustowski’s scientific thesis “Can Tetris be won?” (the answer: no, it can’t). And it has been used to tell the history of the USSR (see video below).
Is Tetris the best game ever?
The above being a subjective question, gamers are divided over whether Tetris trumps the likes of Super Mario Bros and Pac Man, but it does appear in many ‘Greatest Game’ lists:
Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 100th issue had Tetris in first place as the “Greatest Game of All Time”.
In 2007, Tetris came in second place in IGN’s “100 Greatest Video Games of All Time”.
Is Tetris good for your health?
Scientists at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, have confirmed what kids have been insisting for ages: playing video games can be good for you.
Specifically, playing block-building games like Tetris can do more to fix lazy eye than traditional treatments.
Lazy eye (medical name: amblyopia) is a condition in which vision doesn’t develop properly in one eye. It can cause permanent sight problems if left untreated, since the brain eventually just stops processing the blurry images coming from the under-functioning eye.
Doctors usually treat the problem by covering the stronger eye with an eye patch, which forces the weaker eye to do more work. The treatment can take months to work.
And now, let's play ! ( Game contols: Arrow Keys)
If the condition isn’t very severe, some doctors use eye drops to blur vision in the patient’s “good” eye in order to strengthen the “lazy” one.
In the McGill study, nine adults with longtime lazy eye were outfitted with special goggles that allowed one eye to see the falling Tetris blocks at the top of the screen and the other eye to see only the blocks lined up at the bottom. Another group of nine adults (also suffering from lazy eye), had their stronger eyes patched before playing the block-stacking video game. After just two weeks of playing Tetris, the adults with the special goggles showed “a dramatic improvement” in their weaker eyes, as well as better 3-D depth perception. The group that wore eye patches later switched to the goggles, and then their vision also improved dramatically, the researchers explained.
According to research from Dr. Richard Haier, prolonged Tetris activity can also lead to more efficient brain activity during play. When first playing Tetris, brain function and activity increases, along with greater cerebral energy consumption, measured by glucose metabolic rate. As Tetris players become more proficient, their brains show a reduced consumption of glucose, indicating more efficient brain activity for this task.
In January 2009, an Oxford University research group headed by Dr. Emily Holmes reported in PLoS ONE that for healthy volunteers, playing Tetris soon after viewing traumatic material in the laboratory reduced the number of flashbacks to those scenes in the following week. They believe that the computer game may disrupt the memories that are retained of the sights and sounds witnessed at the time, and which are later re-experienced through involuntary, distressing flashbacks of that moment. The group hopes to develop this approach further as a potential intervention to reduce the flashbacks experienced in post-traumatic stress disorder, but emphasized that these are only preliminary results.
There are also potential health drawbacks: the game has been noted to cause the brain to involuntarily picture Tetris combinations even when the player is not playing (the Tetris effect), although this can occur with any computer game or situation showcasing repeated images or scenarios, such as a jigsaw puzzle.
And here, if you want it, is that Tetris music one more time:
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