Build a puzzle by assembling geometric pieces of different shapes capable of rotating on their own axis in four different positions as they descend on a screen. Basically, this is the goal of Tetris. The difficulty? The more points, the faster the pieces fall and with this the demand for greater concentration and mental agility to rotate and fit them correctly increases.
A planetary phenomenon of four decades
With this formula that remains unchanged during its almost forty years of existenceTetris continues to maintain a significant popularity rate, for example, in its version for Facebook is played up 11 million times a day. Do you need more data? It remains active in more than 185 countrieswhich represents a global reach of the 95%has been translated into more than 50 languageshas adapted to more than 30 platforms and there are both amateur and professional championships that thousands of people follow on streaming platforms.
But what is the formula for his enduring success? To start, in addition to a highly addictive format, you can boast a magnificent story with spies, governments and betrayals included. Something that has been conveniently collected in an Apple TV + movie, which narrates part of the history of the video game and which is actually a true thriller under the iron curtain.
Born in the middle of the cold war
Developed by Russian scientist Alexey Pajitnov at the Dorodnitsyn Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, Tetris was born in June 1984 in the former USSR. It was in the middle of the Cold War, when Pajitnov found the inspiration for his creation on the work of pentominoes developed 30 years earlier by the American mathematician solomon golomb.
But it all started a few months earlier, when a 16-year-old student with a passion for programming, Vadim Gerasimovattended the Computer Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences where he developed programs to encrypt directories MS-DOS. His work caught the attention of the engineer Dmitry Pavlovsky, a computer game designer, who convinced him to port some of his titles to PC. From that moment they decided to work together, but soon a third component was linked to the group, the engineer Alexey Pajitnov, a friend of Dmitry who would be in charge of creating new titles. Just a few months later he had the idea: a game of pentaminoes where with the help of a keyboard you had to move a 4-sided piece (tetramino) making it rotate around the screen.
He had a game called Genetic Engineering
Pajitnov’s idea was to take advantage of this concept and create sequences of tetramino pieces that fall along the screen, with the possibility of rotation and that, depending on the position acquired, fit together at the bottom, forming complete lines that disappear. When the screen runs out of space to collect more pieces, the game is over. A formula as simple as addictive and stimulating. According to legend, the first version of the game was programmed in a single afternoon with an Electrónika 60a computer that was already obsolete at that time.
One year for the global detonation
However, it was not only war technologies that were under the watchful eye of the Soviet government during the 1980s and the international projection was quite complicated. At that time, privately designing or selling hardware and software was considered absolutely illegal and there was no concept of intellectual property in the country, so in order to publicize the game, they decided to give copies to friends, which made their diffusion was discreet and certainly faster. The first step towards international expansion was taken in 1987the year that marked the launch of Tetris for PC in North America and Europe.
In fact, it arrived in the United States, but it did not have any impact until the following year, when a video game designer, Henk Rogersdiscovered it in Las Vegas and after some negotiations with the only government organization in the Soviet Union with the authority to sell software abroad, obtained the exclusive rights to use Tetris in the official presentation of Nintendo’s Game Boy, which would be released in Japan the following year. The success was resounding and initial sales exceeded 3 million units. With the Game Boy version released in 1989, the game also gained mobility and turned the beloved handheld console into Nintendo’s most successful machine.
tetraminos in court
The history of Tetris is also littered with legal battles and by 1989 there were about half a dozen companies claiming the right to distribute and create versions of the game for home use. nintendo and atari were the most prominent in the fight and spent years in court defending the rights that both claimed over the trademark. With so much open litigation, the only thing that happened is that the real creators of Tetris received practically no financial compensation until nineteen ninety six. Was when Russia recognized the intellectual property rights of the game to Pajitnovwho emigrated to the United States since 1991, decided to create Tetris Companycurrent owner of the copyright and software licenses.
However, some features of Pajitnov have been questioned for some time. According to public statements by Vadim GerasimovUntil now You have not been paid anything for having participated in the creation of Tetris. As he explains, on one occasion Pajitnov rushed by his house requesting the signing of some papers, since they were in a position to “earn a lot of money from video game companies.” Vladimir mentions that he trusted his “friend” and signed documents that gave him all the rights to run the business and, with it, the waiver of any right of compensation related to the video game.
In a few months his name disappeared from all new versions of the game and related documentation. Gerasimov, who is still alive and works at Google, has never received a penny from one of the most popular games of all time and can still be found playing online today while delighting his many fans, both old and new. .