The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

The Simplicity of Tetris

The fascinating thing about Tetris is its absolute simplicity. There are no maps, no levels, no missions. There are only these seven different blocks falling down in random sequence with increasing speed. Basically each game of Tetris is the same as the one you played last time, yet it is different enough to have you play for hours and hours.

There is no story, no simulation, the game is completely abstract. The blocks do not pretend to be anything they aren’t. They are just blocks, geometrical figures, they exist only for the sake of the game.

You could call it a puzzle game, you could call it an arcade game (though, I think, nobody ever did), it does not belong into any category, it is a category of its own. And while some like arcade games and some dislike them, some like puzzle games and some dislike them, nobody seems to dislike Tetris.

At least nobody I ever met.

It could be played on anything. It has been played on anything. The Electronica 60 on which it was conceived had monochrome phosphor terminals that displayed only basic characters, the squares were drawn as pairs of brackets, like this: [].

For input, you do not even need a keyboard. Four buttons are all that is needed. A digital joystick would do. You do not even need a monitor. Any array of 10Ă—20 LEDs, or light bulbs, would do. An office building has been used as a display for Tetris. You might want something else to display the score, but Tetris would be fun and addictive even without a score system.

Yet, while Tetris has been played on anything and everything imaginable, it has always first and foremost been a PC game. Tetris first put the IBM PC on the map, game-wise. At that time, the PC was anything but a gaming platform. While there had been PC games since the very beginning, they were usually ports or clones from other platforms, mainframes, home micros, video consoles, or arcade coin-ops. And for seven years, Tetris defined what PC gaming was all about. 1992, Christina Erskine, editor of the PC Review, wrote in the introduction to the PC Games Bible:

To the uninitiated, playing games on a PC comes as something of a surprise. After all, aren’t PCs the dull grey blocks seen sitting on a million office desks throughout the country? Those in the know, however, have found that PC gaming is an altogether different experience from alien-bashing on a Commodore Amiga, or platform bouncing on a Nintendo. A PC game is more likely to exercise your game than your joystick trigger finger.

The next year, Doom redefined what PC gaming was all about, and maybe she would not have written this any more.


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