25 Years of Falling Blocks

I love the Google logo for the day – not just because it looks great, but because it kept me from missing Tetris’s 25th birthday. Like, well, everybody I remember losing hours and hours to playing Tetris.
I remember exactly where I first played it – in the summer of 1990 I was at the PA Governor’s School for the Sciences on the CMU campus, and Tetris was installed on the computers at the tiny computer cluster just down the hill from our dorm. It was an odd little computer cluster, shoehorned into a storefront space next to a laundromat across from various food vending trucks that never seemed to actually be open that summer. But we would go down there to work and end up playing “just one game” of Tetris that would turn into two, or three, or four – or as we got better that would go on for almost as long as endurance would allow. You got to develop a style – did you play it safe, laying down solid rows and clearing line at a time along the bottom? Or did you strategically form deeper holes that would let you plonk down the perfect piece and clear four rows at once? I think all of us had the experience of the cluster closing before our game had. At the time I was surprised they let us play on the cluster computers, but looking back I remember the many “No playing Netrek on cluster computers signs and remember that that was the era of schools suffering bandwidth issues because of MMORGs and other online games, and a few kids playing Tetris on localized machines on a summer evening was the least of their cluster abuse concerns. As an aside, I had no idea that Netrek was still up and running – nor at the time did I quite grasp what a technological innovation Netrek was. Modern WoW addicts and other online gamers owe a lot to that game.
Somehow after that summer, I ended up with a copy of Tetris on my Mac at home and I played it constantly. Even when I would grow bored, i could always sit down, weeks or a month later, and play a game and fall right back into the pattern. It was the first game that I would play to the point that I would go to sleep and dream the falling shapes and the patterns of rotation needed to play the perfect game. In college, the year I had to upgrade my computer past compatibility with my copy of Tetris was actually upsetting, and I think it is then that I ended up with a copy of Super Tetris 2, which spawned another “dreaming falling blocks” level addiction with the game.
It is the many, many variations of Tetris that keep coming out that convince me I am not the only one to have had that experience. I would be surprised if there was a platform that it was not ported to. You can access a version of it through emacs. You can play it online in a million places. You can play it in an unrealistically huge format. You can watch a Tetris game as recreated in stop motion by people in colored shirts (and how perverse that even in that format I have to grit my teeth at some of the stupid “moves” being made). You can decorate your house with Tetris furniture.
Excuse me now – I am off to put on my Tetris/Escher tshirt and play some Tetris.

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