The Tetris Phenomenon: World Champions and October 2011 Tournament

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The Tetris Phenomenon: World Champions and October 2011 Tournament

Blocks falling faster, lines filling up, screen almost full – nooo!  Game over!  The Tetris phenomenon is one of the most impressive, given how well the game did outside the gaming community as well as within.  Most, if not all of you reading this article have played Tetris at some point in your lives, as it is one of the most popular “casual video games of all time,” resulting in over 132 million paid mobile downloads worldwide.  It was one of the first video games I ever played, since it was packaged with the original GameBoy.  In Tetris, tiny “L”-shaped, “S”-shaped, “T”-shaped, and straight blocks fall down the screen at a set speed.  The object is to use these shapes to fill up horizontal lines across the bottom of the screen, thus “zapping” the line into oblivion and creating space for more falling blocks.  The game is over when the entire screen is filled with blocks.  Of course the speed settings and music can be changed (thank you game developers for some musical variety – the same music every time could drive a person crazy!).  There’s only one word to describe Tetris – addicting – scratch that, two words – SEVERELY addicting!

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Blocks, blocks, falling blocks!

James Clewett, 1999 world Tetris champion and PhD candidate in physics at the University of Nottingham, says this addictive quality is what helps him in physics.  He states in a video interview (link below), “This sort of obsessive compulsive, very easily addicted personality has really defined my life.  It’s gotten me where I am.”  As he described his attempts to break the world record, he said, “My hands were dripping with sweat […] and I got one level short of the world record, and I slipped, and at that speed, everything goes wrong, just like that.”  At the time, the world record for Tetris was 1.63 million points, and he got to 1.57 million.  Upon going to the World Arcade Games Championship in 1999, he became the world champion of Tetris.  He says it takes a “certain level of focus,” an obsessive focus.  He even met Alexey Pajitnov, creator of Tetris, and got his signature on the screen of his GameBoy!

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A Tetris world champion

Last month was a huge month for Tetris.  The Tetris-based lottery game was launched in Canada, the Nintendo 3DS version was released, and Los Angeles held the 2nd Annual World Championship for Tetris.  Hundreds flocked to Southern California to compete in one of three Tetris tournament categories, with only thirty-two people in the semi-final round and three reigning winners – Jonas Neubauer (age 30 from Redondo Beach, California and winner of last year’s Tetris competition) in the NES solo category, John Tran (age 27 from Menifee, California) in PSN solo, and Team Hard Drop (John Tran and Roger Teng) in PSN team.  The grand prize?  $1,000 USD (about 645 pounds), a Tetris trophy, and bragging rights.

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Ooo explODing blocks!

It may be hard to believe, but scientists have even found that Tetris helps post-traumatic stress disorder!  Basically, your brain has a certain amount of space for “mental images” or “flashbacks,” and Tetris takes up some of that space, thereby diminishing flashbacks.  Who would have thought?  But then again, who hasn’t fallen asleep after playing Tetris and had those blocks dominating your dreams?  It’s like the game is taking over your mind!  That happens to me most when I play Tetris or study Chinese.  During an intense semester of Mandarin in college, I studied Chinese every night before I went to sleep and every morning just before class, resulting in random Chinese characters floating around in my dreams.  Tetris is no different…Those little shapes and blocks get in your head and refuse to go away.  It’s like the game is calling out “Play me!  Play me!  No sleep for you – Tetris for life!”

KitGuru says: Maybe scientists should do a study to determine whether people are breaking the world record for Tetris in their sleep.

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