Tetris, released in the 1980’s (the first version was released in 1985, but other countries received it from 1986-1988) is one of the most viral games ever. It’s simple enough that children can play it, but complex enough to keep players of all ages entertained for hours. It doesn’t require that the player speak any one language – the mechanics are simple enough to not need instructions. And, most importantly, it’s fun. Winning is satisfying. It gets harder the longer you play, so you’re never bored with the difficulty.
Versions of Tetris exist everywhere now. The game itself is as endlessly versatile as eggs. Physics-based. Efficiency based. Tetris games that want you to fill the board completely, like a puzzle. Tetris games that allow you to squeeze pieces in between gaps that are too small, and Tetris games that don’t. Tetris games that troll you. Competitive Tetris, where discarded lines are given to your enemies. Tetris games where the Tetriminos have 5 blocks, instead of four. The game is endlessly updateable, and the original remains the most ported game in all of video game history. Difficult, but fair, the standard games have chased since day one.
Some players develop what’s known as the Tetris Effect – they’ve played the game so long that it begins to seep into their dreams, and they unconsciously wait for blocks to start descending from somewhere whenever they aren’t occupied with another task. The Tetris Effect technically refers to any time a person is devoting so much time to an activity it starts to bleed into places it wouldn’t normally be – Rubix Cube speed-solvers sometimes unwillingly run through their algorithms in their head, and chess players may find themselves trying to identify what piece a traffic bollard would be and how it could move on the board.
When you look at it that way, sea legs are part of the Tetris effect. The Periodic Table in it’s solved state is as well! Tetris first put a name to the phenomenon because it is so genuinely interesting that people who weren’t accustomed to having it were experiencing the effect for the first time.
Repetitive Games and PTSD
Simple puzzle games have benefit beyond just immediate entertainment. Studies seem to suggest that repetitive games like Tetris or word games, something easy enough to be attention-absorbant, can help curb the effects of PTSD after a traumatic event, like a car crash. Specifically, games like Tetris help combat involuntary flashbacks. Treating PTSD after it develops with CBT shows promise, but intervening before it has a chance to really take root would be better. The study size in the initial research was small, but it shows promise: https://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/news/tetris-used-to-prevent-post-traumatic-stress-symptoms .