Competitive Tetris – Here’s What You Need to Know About the Game

The original game of Tetris was born in Soviet Russia. Ever since then, the world has been hooked on Tetris. Today, Tetris can be played competitively and the competition is tougher than ever!

Invention of Tetris

In 1984, software engineer Alexey Pajitnov invented Tetris. Pajitnov was inspired by pentominoes to create the game of Tetris. Pentominoes are a 3D puzzle toy.

The name “Tetris” comes from the prefix ‘tetra’ meaning “four” and “tennis” Alexey’s favorite sport.

Alexey worked to translate the real world pentominoes puzzle onto the computer screen. Originally, the game was different characters on a screen.  Each shape in the game of Tetris has four blocks.

Fighting For Tetris

Alexey was 29 years old when he invented Tetris. In Soviet Russia, communication with the outside world proved difficult. However, the game was so captivating that Alexey received an offer from Robert Stein via telex machine. Telex machines are an outdated device that transmitted short messages, similar to texting. The two men miscommunicated on the telex. Alexey responded “maybe” to the offer, and the buyer received the message as “yes.”

Alexey refused to sign away the rights to the game, even when Stein flew out to Soviet Russia insisting that he sign away the game. The papers were never signed, so Stein decided to claim that his own team had invented the game. After years of fighting over the game and international legal battles, the game is now credited to Alexey with most of the royalties going to the Soviet government. 

After many people fought over the ownership of Tetris, Tetris sales truly took off on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The highest possible score on the classic version of Tetris is just under one million, at 999,999 points. 

Competitive Tetris

With esports on the rise, it’s no wonder Tetris has become one of the most popular competitive game tournaments. Any player who wishes to hold an official Tetris title must play competitive Tetris. Players who compete for world records or in the yearly Classic Tetris World Championship must play on the original NES game of Tetris.

Why is Tetris so addictive?

Tetris is a remarkably addictive game because there is no “winning.” The probability of getting the maximum score is extremely difficult. Tetris gets faster and faster as the game goes on, and ends at level 29.

How many people have “maxed out” on Tetris?

Every year since 2019, more and more people “max out” on Tetris. A “max out” list is kept on a Google spreadsheet containing the names of players along with proof videos of them reaching the 999,999 score. 

Teen Tetris Champion

After a teenager won the CWTC, other teens were inspired to start playing Tetris competitively. A 16-year-old named Joseph Saelee won the World Tetris Competition in 2018. The video is on ESPN’s Esports Youtube channel. Now, Saelee doesn’t play the game as often. He streams on Twitch.

Fun Facts About Tetris

  • A movie was made in 2023 about Tetris.
  • Beyonce likes Tetris.
  • Tetris was the first video game in outer space.
  • The Tetris theme song is a Russian folk tune.
  • Attempts were made at using Tetris to treat lazy eye, post traumatic stress disorder, and even controlling cravings.
  • Search the hashtag #TetrisChallenge on social media to show a bunch of law enforcement agencies laying with their vehicles in Tetris shapes.

Classroom Resources