I am Tetris-Ready – 10 Thesis about Tetris

  • 1991, a kid named Thor had become Nintendo-World-Champion. Instantly famous among young gaming-nerds, at the height of his success, he just vanished.
  • 2011, the first Tetris-World-Champion will be crowned in Portland. 20 years later, Thor has become a myth–a kid who allegedly made it once beyond the so-called kill-screen of Tetris.
  • The kill-screen is level 29, in which the stones just fall too fast for human players. Only Thor who employed a back-then secret technique called “hyper-tapping” could, according to the legend, master the level.
  • For the Tetris-World-Championship, Thor reappeared. The result is a great documentary:

10 Thesis about Tetris

1. Thesis: Tetris is a Zen-Meditation on life

Argument: The gaming principle of Tetris rests on the recombination of square blocks that build different shapes called Tetrominos. These essential shapes have to be stacked efficiently.
Tetris thus represents how from simple structures very complex structures can arise and build the foundation for a particular universe (see also Stephen Wolfram and his famous Wolfram-Principle). In other words, Tetris is a simple meditation on atomized form in its relation to complexity. It resembles zen-meditations on simplicity, while we focus only on forms without content. It stands for a simplified and minimalist mind.

2. Thesis: Tetris is an addictive drug

In its simplicity, Tetris is a game without a plot and without awesome graphics. It was successful because Tetris “supercharges your cerebral glucose metabolic rate.” Your brain will “burn energy on an hyperactive speed”. Throwing a line-piece into a self-constructed tetris-ready structure (Boom!!!) results in the Zeigarnic-effect. It means that completing simple tasks will give you the constant sense of achievement, while the solution is represented as the unfinished tasks. Of course, when the first rush is over, your brain will crave the original moment.

Tetris is therefore the fulfillment of a capitalist dream. It hacks the brain and thus became one of the most successful games in history.

3. Thesis: Tetris can replace other drugs

Playing Tetris for three minutes can reduce your craving for drugs, food and sex.

“The research was published in the Addictive Behaviors journal, where 31 participants were asked to text message seven times each day to prepare a report of any cravings they were feeling. Half of the participants were asked to then play Tetris for three minutes before reporting their craving strength again. In the end of the research, it was found that Playing Tetris can help one avoid gluttonous desires and reducing cravings by one-fifth.” (Source)

According to the study it is “the first demonstration that visual cognitive interference can be used in the field to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating” (Study)

4. Thesis: Tetris is medication

Because of its mind-clearing effects , Tetris is more and more recognized as a “pharmatronic”, “a kind of electronic drug” (Washington Post). Some envision Tetris as a therapy utilized in ERs: “A hospital ER could be equipped with computer terminals (or Nintendo DSs) with Tetris on them, with one possible treatment for psychological trauma victims being an emergency “course” of Tetris.” (psychcentral) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008913/

“We showed that intrusive memories were virtually abolished by playing the computer game Tetris following memory reactivation,” wrote the research team from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Oxford and Cambridge universities, and the Karolinska Institute of Sweden. https://www.ptsdjournal.com/posts/tetris/

5. Thesis: Tetris is a Learning Instrument

Tetris has positive effects on learning since it “thickens the brain’s cortex and can contribute to greater cognitive efficiency” (MC Research Notes, link to study here). According to the study, 26 teenage girls played Tetris for 30 minutes a day over three months. It showed thickening of three brain regions, while there were no changes in the brains of girls who did not play Tetris. So what does that mean? Is Tetris a tool where we get better in playing Tetris or a tool by which we improve overall?

At least Tetris teaches delayed gratification. You do not just burn lines, you carefully build structures that shall be destroyed with a line piece.

6. Thesis: Tetris was an economical Weapon

“The Soviets almost won the Cold War with Tetris: “In the late ’80s, when home computers weren’t as common as now, many people played the game at work, and early versions included a “boss button” that replaced the screen with a fake spreadsheet. Some said it sapped so much capitalist productivity, it amounted to an early Soviet cyberattack on America” (Washington Post). Now, it transcends the Western-Eastern barrier with players from all continents.

7. Thesis: Tetris is Russian art and a little bit of Russia in all of us

8. Thesis: Tetris expresses our desire for perfection.

The desire to play Tetris lies in the idea of its perfection and control. A Tetris master would play forever and control its nature. But the master herself is nature and if he controls her own nature, she is not fully in control since she is controlled. Tetris is the illusion that a pure mastery is ideally possible.

If you play Tetris intensively and over longer periods of time, you will dream of it and see these shapes in your everyday-life everywhere. This mind-altering effect is known as the Tetris-effect. But maybe it is an attempt of the brain to reveal another ideal truth of our environment?

The essence of Tetris lies in its illusion of freedom.

9. Thesis: Tetris teaches us that mistakes will remain while achievements disappear

In other words, Tetris is for losers. Given that the stones fall down randomly, you eventually will lose since some stone combinations will force inevitable holes in your structure. In this sense, Tetris is no game for eternity or afterlife. It is also not about perfection but expresses the ending capacity of life.

Instead of perfection, Tetris resembles life. It is based on a random combination of molecules.

What is breaking Tetris? It is the so-called snake-sequence, an s- and a z-piece back to back. The chance of being snake-bitten is 1 in 347. So “how to lose on Tetris”? On average it takes 70.000 turns when playing only with alternating s and z pieces.

10. Thesis: Tetris resembles the cruelty of life. Though life is generally okay, it all depends on the Tetris-God

The following videos lead deeper into the Tetris universe.

Tetris Explained introduces into the problems and difficulties in relation to the 2018 world-championship. It is the best video for understanding the current Tetris-hype.

Tetris exists for more than three decades. Since the first Championship Jonas Neubauer has become 7 times Tetris-World-Champion. One might assume that there cannot be much that will happen. However, in 2018 a shift in playing styles occurred that altered the game and made it even more competitive.

Even though multiple players have beaten the kill screen by now, the myth of Thor is demystified by him finally delivering a video of hitting level 30.

This video is another good explanation and it is also interesting because also works on one of my favorite channels “Film Theory”.

If you want to understand the art of Tetris, it will certainly be helpful to watch Jonas Neubauer the 7 out of 10 Tetris World-champion (The Michael Jordan of Tetris) teaching Tetris to a rookie.

In general, it is also interesting to watch crazy playing skills.

Brain Craft is a great channel that dives into different aspect of game design and the gaming industry.

Another video from Brain Craft explains why Tetris is so addictive.

In this video Neubauer learns how to drum in 40 minutes. It is only slightly related to Tetris but interesting.

All Text’s that I read on this topic

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