The story behind the Tetris game

by Rick Roberts
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Tetris is one of the most popular classic games in the world of video games. It was one of the first successful video games throughout the nation. This game of puzzles is still popular today and available on almost every device you can buy. Tetris has sold over 170 million copies all over the world. The game has a unique story. Before it was available to millions of people, it was just a simple thought in one man’s mind.

The game of Tetris

To understand Tetris, you have to dive into the game itself. It’s simple, yet complex. The player doesn’t have to fight too many graphics. There are no characters or structured plots. The game of Tetris is all about rotating falling pieces of “puzzle” to create a solid. Once you do this, the pieces disappear. As you go through each phase of the game, the pieces start falling faster. It’s tough to beat the speed and build your perfect puzzle before the tower of pieces hits the top. Then, you start all over again.

The inventor

Russian computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov was 29 when he invented Tetris. While working as a coder for the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Pajitnov was creating his game on the side. For the name, he joined his favorite sport of tennis with the word “tetromino.” He created Tetris for fun. He was surprised when it became a hit. The way it became a hit was even more of a surprise.

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Illegal activity

During the 1980s, it was illegal to do private business in the Soviet Union. Pajitnov worked with his colleagues to port it into a PC format. They shared the game with friends. Tetris was smuggled into Hungary next. It began to move across Europe. Finally, Robert Maxwell’s company, Mirrorsoft got ahold of it. They decided to put out the first commercial versions of Tetris.

Time to license

Tetris was developed at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. This meant the game belonged to the Soviets instead of Pajitnov. The people that bought or even owned rights to Tetris could possibly lose them unless they challenged the Soviets. Henk Rogers, a Dutch computer programmer, changed all of this. He brokered a big deal with the Soviet company, Elorg. This deal changed Tetris to a handheld version. Rogers took this version to Nintendo to work with the Game Boy. Robert Maxwell and Andromeda’s Robert Stein were fighting to secure the rights at the same time. It was no good. Rogers held the rights in his hands.

The release

The release of Tetris gets a little tricky. It was licensed for other consoles besides the Game Boy. A Tetris game developed for the Nintendo by Atari was also in the works. Remember, the rights were hard to come by, and Atari didn’t have the rights to make the game. There were approximately 100,000 copies of these games in existence. There was also the Sega Mega Drive version. It was developed, but couldn’t get the licensing. These are still floating around, but a very rare find.

A big hit

Tetris made its way around the world, even with all of the obstacles. Besides the video game world, it also hit the music scene with its recognizable sounds. The music was created by Hirokazu Tanaka. This music was so popular that theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber released a mixed version of the theme song.

Next time you sit down to play a game of Tetris, think back on these crazy facts. It was a game that was smuggled out of the country to make a huge hit across the globe. A game of little puzzle pieces smuggled its way into our video game-loving hearts.

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