2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the most important technological development of all time: Tetris. There are probably many of you out there that will insist that the Macintosh computer was the most important tech release of 1984, and I will grant that it is a close second, but I am still standing behind the classic tile-matching puzzle video game.
For those of you who don’t know, Tetris is a very simple game in which any of seven different blocks, which are every possible combination of four smaller square blocks that have adjoining sides, fall from above and your job is to move them side-to-side and/or rotate them in order to complete horizontal lines which disappear when completed. The ultimate move is to leave only one vertical line incomplete and drop the “line” piece in to complete four horizontal lines at once. This is a Tetris and you will be rewarded with big points, flashing graphics, sound effects, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Tetris was originally developed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union, and was the first video game exported from the USSR to the US. Its popularity skyrocketed when a version was released for the Nintendo GameBoy in 1989, and versions have since been released for just about every console, operating system, personal electronic device, and has even been played by using the windows in a large building as the blocks.
While the 8-bit NES version will always be my favorite, I have been playing a new version on my iPhone: Tetris Blitz by Electronic Arts. This version takes the classic gameplay and condenses it into a two-minute speed round in which the goal is to score maximum points. They have added a number of power-up blocks which trigger different actions, such as lasers that burn up several lines for you or masses of blocks that drop all at once. You can play in single player mode, head-to-head against strangers or your Facebook friends, as well as in special tournaments which often have different rules or game mechanics for added variety. This app is free, but employs what has come to be known as the freemium model, which means that there are a fair number of in-app ads and in-app purchases that are available. If you can learn to ignore these, this app is a fun addition to the Tetris family and only
wastes uses two minutes at a time.
The best part? Tetris is good for you! According to research, playing half-an-hour a day for three months boosts general cognitive functions such as critical thinking, reasoning, language and processing and increases cerebral cortex thickness. It has also been shown to be a potential therapy for preventing PTSD as well as a way to help quit smoking. See here for more information.