5 Fun Facts About 'Tetris'

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Box Brown
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If you’ve ever played Tetris, especially when it first came out in the 1980s, you probably remember it as being something that at least temporarily took over your life. The best video games can do that, but something about the simple nature of Tetris made it addictive like no other. Now, in a new graphic novel, Box Brown (whose last graphic novel was a biography of Andre the Giant) tells the story of how Tetris made its way from the mind of a software engineer in the Soviet Union to becoming one of the most popular video games of all time.

Tetris: The Games People Play comes out October 11, but in the meantime, Brown shared with mental_floss things you may not have known about Tetris, illustrated with scenes from his book.

1. TETRIS WAS CREATED BY A SOFTWARE ENGINEER IN MOSCOW.

BOX BROWN: "This is where Alexey Pajitnov was working when he created Tetris. He was employed by the government at the time. One of the things I found so compelling about Alexey was that he had no profit motive to create Tetris.  It's pure inspiration and execution. Maybe he just did it because it could be done and it should be done. It's something that can't really be said about a lot of pieces of art."

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE A WOODEN PUZZLE GAME CALLED PENTOMINOES.

BOX BROWN: "A version of this game was marketed in the states as 'Cathedral' in 1985. I remember playing it at my cousin's house when I was a kid. It was pretty competitive. The game was designed to look like you were building a little castle but it was really just a Tetris-like puzzle game."

3. ITS ORIGINAL VERSION WAS ALL TEXT-BASED.

BOX BROWN: "The absolute first version of Tetris was made on a computer with no graphics capabilities. So, Alexey created his vision with text. Two brackets [] made up a block. His first conception of Tetris were these puzzle pieces falling from the sky and landing in a glass. The player had to rearrange them as they fell."

4. THE NAME TETRIS WAS AN AMALGAMATION.

BOX BROWN: "Most players thought the name Tetris was weird when they first heard it. I guess it's kind of weird looking back on it. The way the game was marketed in the U.S., it must have sounded like a very stern Russian word to American audiences. It's so ubiquitous, it's the perfect name. I wonder if people thought Xerox was a weird word at first?"

5. TETRIS STARTED OUT AS SHAREWARE.

BOX BROWN: "This scene was fun for me because I remember shareware. Before the internet you would save a game on a floppy disc and give it to a friend. It amazed me that the game still went 'viral' even though you had to physically meet the person, not to mention spend forever copying the game on the old machines. I have distinct memories of getting Wolfenstein via this method ..."

Tetris: The Games People Play will be released October 11.

September 9, 2016 - 2:00pm
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