chris-littlechild - May 2, 2013
How many video games are such massive assholes that they have a medical malady named after them? Tetris, that's how many. The nefarious ‘Tetris Syndrome,' which sent those damn shapes cascading down our bloodshot eyelids (from the inside) long after our craptacular, chunky enough to serve as a weapon to deter late-night prowlers in our homes Game Boys had been discarded for the night, was a rite of passage for many of our youthful gamer selves.
Alexey Pajitnov birthed Tetris in Russia the early Eighties, when the Soviet Union decided it needed a form of entertainment rather more sophisticated than cruising about badly-plowed fields atop donkeys and/or thrusting ice picks through the craniums of political dissidents. A humble half-assed side project, he had no inkling of the remarkable phenomenon the game would become.
Nor could he have. Once again, in this fledgling stage of the industry, gaming ‘plots' hadn't evolved beyond Aliens are invading! Shoot them all in the thorax! Had this been incorporated into Tetris, we'd all have been asking things like Eh? What in the name of Satan's sweaty scrote happened there? Did Pajitnov want that on his conscience? He did not, and so opted to forgo any sort of narrative entirely ("It's a puzzle game, balls to that," he was -certainly not- heard to say later).
In lieu of that, we're instantly hoisted into a blank, rectangular playing field, with an array of odd little mathematical missiles falling before our bewildered faces. These you must rotate and cajole into position on the grid, so as to form unbroken lines which will then disappear in a flurry of score-age, excitement, an elevated sense of your own self-worth and perhaps a quick victorious fondle of your gonads if grandma isn't in the room at the time.
But we know how this puzzling wonderment works. Tetris's addictive, grab you by the colon and refuse to relinquish its hold compelling nature lies in its advanced tactics. Plunging a straight shaft into a narrow opening (if you'll pardon the sextacular expression) was one of gaming's first ‘accomplished' feelings, and closing in upon a previous high score as the screen fills is a tense, swear-filled affair.
The genre owes much to Tetris. Terrible ‘homages' from the depths of Lucifer's left ball have surfaced in droves (remember Hatris, also from Pajitnov, which charged you with sorting hat styles on tiny, bearded, disembodied heads to make them disappear? No you don't, because it was shit). Like Mario Kart, there are more imitations from competing companies than you could shake your righteous angry lawyer middle finger at. The original was never surpassed, though, and its crowning achievement lies in (pretty much) single-handedly beginning Nintendo's dominance of the handheld market simply by virtue of being bundled with the Game Boy in 1989.
As if that weren't enough, the NES edition boasted perhaps the greatest puntacular humor ever printed on a game case: From Russia With Fun!
Now take another trip on the nostalgia train with this footage:
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