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5 Fun Facts About Tetris

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Box Brown

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.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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