This week, Tetris turns 35 years old.
I played my first official game of Tetris when I was eight, but it wasn’t until high school I realised I was actually pretty good at it.
During my senior year, I would routinely interrupt study sessions with Tetris and friends eventually came over to simply watch me play.
It took me 13 years to achieve a maximum score of 999,999. I hadn’t been playing continuously up until that time however, and many new players can achieve this maxout score in less than a year.
Back when I was a teenager in the 90s, the community of Tetris players felt very small, and existed only on message boards.
There were only a handful of players that could achieve a top score and the only proof we had of our achievements were poorly scanned photos of scores and the only trophies we got were temporary high score bragging rights.
I continued to play the game casually in my 20s but one day decided to record one of my maxout games. That video got uploaded to YouTube by a Tetris enthusiast and was viewed 50,000 times.
The video caught the eye of a documentary filmmaker named Adam Cornelius who was planning the first ever officially recognised Tetris tournament as the climax to his next film. This tournament became the first Classic Tetris World Championships (CTWC) in 2010. I ended up winning and my exploits are recorded in the Ecstasy of Order documentary that was released the following year.
I have since won seven of the nine CTWC, placing second in the other two.
My performance at these tournaments has taken me to Hong Kong and Spain, where the mayor of a small city called Albacete gave me a ceremonial knife. I have become an international ambassador of the game and love to challenge competitors around the globe in exhibition matches. I plan on traveling to Taipei in July to continue this effort.
People always think I’m the one to call when they’re packing a suitcase or organising a storage unit – and if you want that suitcase filled in 10 seconds or less, I am your man.
Tetris has helped me make quick and plentiful decisions in everyday life. Have you ever been to a restaurant with a 12 page menu? I can scan the choices and make a decision almost immediately without a shred of regret. Even if they bring me the wrong order, I’ll make it work.
The CTWC is held in Portland, Oregon in October of each year. Many Tetris enthusiasts talk block, and the parties and get-togethers surrounding the tournament have become as important as the event itself.
Some of the people I encountered on those message boards back in the 90s now also compete in the current CTWC.
It still is unbelievable that a simple yet addicting video game has been such a powerful force in my life.
As of May this year, I have transitioned from working in a bar to playing Tetris on Twitch as my full-time occupation. I still play a lot of Tetris (about 15 hours a week), but have also branched out to other games and I’ve even started giving private lessons offline to players.
Being a Tetris champion became a huge part of my identity and I struggled with accepting my decline in competitive ranking over the past couple of years.
In video game years, I’m an old codger compared to younger, faster players. The modern style of play is incredibly different to what I am used to, but I am trying to get better at it.
Even though the level of competition has risen each year, I still have so much fun sharing my passion for this wonderful, rewarding game. The community that has grown around the tournaments has been exceptional.
I’m hoping to transition more towards a tournament commentator and ambassador of Tetris in the coming years.
The Olympics are looking at adding a video game to their event portfolio and I can’t think of a better, more internationally recognised game than Tetris. It would be so incredible to coach the USA team in a jumpsuit holding a clipboard.
If Tetris has taught me anything over the past 35 years it is to roll with the punches and have as much fun as possible before I top-out.
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