Ten Fascinating Facts About Tetris On Its Thirtieth Anniversary

Tetris celebrates its thirtieth anniversary today. And like anything thirty years old, it’s accumulated some odd trivia over the years. Here are some fascinating facts about the game we can’t stop playing.

1) You Can Play The Game That Started It All For Free

The original version of Tetris is freely available online from one of the original programmers. He’s also got a long, and fascinating, oral history of the early days of Tetris worth reading.

2) Tetris Caught On Because Of Piracy

Alexey Pajitnov, widely credited as the inventor of Tetris, put the game together on an Elektronika 60 as a way to kill time, and his friend ported it to the IBM PC. They tried to sell the game, but nothing came of it, so they gave away the copies to friends, who promptly copied them and gave them to friends as well. From there, it went viral, spreading around Moscow and ultimately to the far corners of the Soviet Union, where it was discovered by a Western publisher.

3) The Legal Battles Over Tetris Destroyed A Number Of Companies

The game caught on quickly outside the USSR, and the rights to it quickly became a mess. For example, the NES version of Tetris from Tengen is technically a pirated game, one of the few to ever be officially sold on store shelves, and the head of Mirrorsoft, the UK company that claimed to have the rights, turned up dead under suspicious circumstances. Atari and Nintendo didn’t settle their beef over the game until 1993, and the inventor of the game didn’t start seeing any money from it until 1996.

4) Tetris Is Officially Unwinnable

A Canadian mathematician, in 1988, proved for his master’s thesis that you can never win at Tetris, at least in marathon mode. But keep trying! Just remember that Tetris can scar you for life.

5) Tetris Has Been Psychologically Proven To Haunt Your Dreams…

A study of anterograde amnesiacs, or people unable to form new memories, found that they had dreams about playing Tetris, even though they didn’t remember ever playing Tetris.

6)… And Can Help You Control Cravings Or Even PTSD Flashbacks

That ability of Tetris to tap into other parts of your brain is actually incredibly useful. In studies, it’s been found to reduce cravings for nicotine or types of foods, and even to help reduce the frequency and severity of flashbacks in PTSD sufferers if the game is played before new memories can form. The actual effectiveness needs to be more widely studied, but hey, who doesn’t need an excuse to play?

7) Tetris Is Available On Literally Everything With A Processor

Officially, Tetris hold the Guinness World Record for the most ported piece of software, at 65 platforms and counting. Unofficially, the rights to the game are such a mess, and the rules are so easy to copy, that it’s believed that anything with even a rudimentary graphics processor has some form of Tetris on it.

8) One Of The Most Popular Variants Of Tetris Is Bastet, AKA B*stard Tetris

Bastet is a knock-off of Tetris with one very crucial difference. Instead of the pieces coming down at random, the game actively scans your playing field and chooses the absolutely worst possible piece to give you. Think you can beat it? Try it here.

9) Tetris Has An Official Sequel

Called Welltris, and developed by the original Tetris team, essentially you were playing Tetris in three dimensions. It’s actually quite a good game, but understandably Tetris still dominates.

10) Tetris Has Sold 100 Million Copies… Just On Mobile Platforms

Officially, Tetris has sold 170 million copies. But between piracy, knock-offs, and imitations, the total number of copies sold is unknown, but might range as high as 300 million. Not bad for a game coded on a knock-off computer by a bored programmer.