Alexey Pajitnov still hasn’t mastered Tetris, the game he invented 35 years ago

tetris gameboy
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Tetris first fell into the hands of players in 1984. Created by Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian software developer living in Moscow at the time, Tetris still has the attention of players almost 35 years later.

It’s a simple game with a complex history. Tetris was inspired by a puzzle board game called “Pentominos” which featured wooden shapes comprised of five blocks. Two to three players place the wooden shapes on a board with the goal of being the last player to set a piece down. Tetris tweaked the idea to create the puzzle game players have enjoyed for 35 years.

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Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov Glòria Langreo

Tetris has released on a variety of platforms over the years. From the first-ever playable instance on the PC to the iconic Game Boy version, and even more recently, PlayStation VR headsets and the Nintendo Switch, Tetris remains a household name while staying true to its roots. That is no easy achievement.

In celebration of Tetris’ 35th anniversary, we talked with creator Alexey Pajitnov and asked him how he feels about the game today.

Digital Trends: What’s your absolute favorite version of Tetris?

Alexey Pajitnov: Well… Basically, I love them all. It’s really hard to distinguish them. They are all so different, but the version I played the most, and probably my favorite, would be the early Game Boy version. The first Game Boy version.

Do you think you’ll ever get tired of hearing Tetris Song A?

Well, it’s a Tchaikovsky dance from Nutcracker. I don’t mind to hear it from time to time.

What’s your favorite way to play Tetris? Its come out on so many consoles, Game Boy, VR, and now the Nintendo Switch. Do you have a preference?

I do. I was the creator and I am the longest human being playing this game ever, you know? I have [had] a chance to compare all of them.

Tetris is a game for buttons. So, I like to play it on [the] computer with keys [that are] more comfortable. That’s why I think my favorite way to play is somewhere where I can hard drop and soft drop and navigate the pieces with a push [of] a button.

Have you ever personally suffered from the Tetris effect?

Yes, there was a period of time when I had these weird dreams of the falling pieces. I found this amazing and it didn’t bother me at all.

How good are you at Tetris? Would you say you’re good enough to compete competitively?

Well… No, I don’t think so. I’m good enough for an amateur because I did play a lot. But recently I didn’t practice enough, and professional players like Koryan are really amazing with the game. I would position myself as, more or less, an advanced amateur.

If you had to pick, which is the best Tetromino of them all?

My favorite is [the] J Tetromino. Obviously, everyone likes the “I” piece but that’s a given. For strategy, it’s the J piece [that] is the more needed somehow. I don’t know, I have a problem with my [left] corner, so I need to put the J piece there from time to time.

Tetrominoes_IJLO_STZ_Worlds
Tetrominoes in their Tetris Worlds colors (which are the standard for Tetris since 2001), with beveled edges. Top row: I, J, L, O. Bottom row: S, T, Z. Wikipedia

Do you prefer small combos or big ones?

I don’t have enough [skill] to make the long combos. Do you mean combo as in combo or just double, triple Tetris kind of stuff? I love to make Tetris’ and I always try to make Tetris’. But if I do the combo — combo is a term in Tetris and it’s when you clear several lines with every piece — I can probably do three or four.

What do you think keeps Tetris fresh, even today?

Well, with all this technology people get used to the stuff that becomes old really fast. We have lots of upgraded technology, but we always forget that our brains remain the same. Whatever we liked 10 years ago, there is no reason to dislike it now. People play the same games for centuries — like chess, checkers, or card games. I think that Tetris falls into this category.

There’s more Tetris coming

If you would like to hear more about all things Tetris, visit the official website where its currently celebrating its 35 year anniversary. Earlier this month, the company debuted a new logo and even announced a slew of new games, products, and partnerships. If you would like to partake on the fun, Barcade locations will also be holding a Tetris “take over” event, fit with themed food, beverages, and merchandise for sale.

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