Always have Tetris on your phone
October 13, 2021 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Tetris is not just a fun diversion, but also has remarkable trauma-fighting properties. Playing Tetris within 24 hours of a traumatic event has been found to significantly reduce the likelihood of intrusive memories, and the game has also been used as a behavioural intervention for treating established PTSD.

It is not yet clear whether these properties are specific to Tetris or would apply to a broader class of games or activities (though the original poster has heard anecdotal reports of Solitaire serving this purpose, and trivia not working).
posted by acb (33 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Casual games in general have remarkable any-kind-of-memory fighting properties.

(looks up from screen) "holy mackerel, it's not 2019?"
"Why do you say that every few weeks?"
posted by otherchaz at 9:16 AM on October 13 [14 favorites]


I wonder what happens when we combine something like MDMA or psilocybin with Tetris Effect.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:21 AM on October 13 [9 favorites]


Just a mild reminder that real people with PTSD, which can include memory problems, flashbacks, or issues with dissociation, are going to read this thread.

In the spirit of keeping Metafilter helpful and positive, it might be a good idea to save jokes about that stuff for a different thread. I can assure you it's not as fun as it sounds (??) to be stuck in the wrong year!
posted by warriorqueen at 9:28 AM on October 13 [44 favorites]


Reading through the links. They discovered a procedure that is scientifically proven to get people through traumatic times and is easily accessible, inexpensive, fast, and effective.
[this is good]
posted by otherchaz at 9:31 AM on October 13 [11 favorites]


PTSD really fucks people up so I am enamored to find out there's a way to help.
posted by bleep at 9:38 AM on October 13 [5 favorites]


On a personal & anecdotal note I find it kind of interesting because when my youngest was in NICU (after my eldest baby having died in a NICU, so like, horrible memories there), I played Bejeweled obsessively. I don't know if it helped but it did at the time feel like it kind of was providing a kind of a rung to stand on between "suuuuper catastrophizing/flooded with feeling" and "disconnected and shut down."
posted by warriorqueen at 9:47 AM on October 13 [28 favorites]


(though the original poster has heard anecdotal reports of Solitaire serving this purpose, and trivia not working)

Perhaps this is because trivia requires more active thought than Solitaire or Tetris, both of which are easy to zone out to.
posted by May Kasahara at 9:52 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


I know a number of people for whom EMDR has been incredibly successful in helping with their CPTSD. It makes absolute sense to me that the eye movements required to play Tetris (or to scan the cards in Solitaire) would mimic that effect.
posted by hanov3r at 9:53 AM on October 13 [7 favorites]


I had also wondered if Bejeweled conferred the same relief, as I find Tetris incredibly anxiety-producing. Or is the anxiety part of it?
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


If the accelerating pace produces anxiety, perhaps a clockless game would also work.

I wonder whether 2048/Threes would have anti-traumatic properties.
posted by acb at 10:26 AM on October 13 [7 favorites]


Hopeful news!

Are any games definitively known to cause trauma, and what do we know about what might drive a person to seek out such game(s), repeatedly in particular.
posted by riverlife at 10:33 AM on October 13


Desert Bus?
posted by acb at 10:48 AM on October 13 [4 favorites]


Meh, not surprising at all. Surfing the randomness with your ability and the knowledge that it's all random makes any decent outcome better than expected. Random Tetris blocks, or Solitaire, doesn't matter. It's dealing with The Random as it comes and making the best choice of the options available that are presented by the Universe of Random and it's not much more than just a confirmation that you're human like everyone else and can do OK at least on the playing with fate level. The blocks are random but you can still advance, the cards are shuffled but you can still maybe win. It takes nothing more than a tiny bit more to surf the random and find relief. Try minesweeper or mahjongg. If you loose it's no big deal, it's Random. If you win it's something different. Welcome to the 51%. Learn to navigate the Random and be all Human-Like and come out a bit ahead (if only inside) is why it's no mystery that something like Tetris has therapeutic effect. It reinforces basic structures. Hail Eris! and all that.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:51 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


I'd imagine Five Nights at Freddy's is going to have some effect on a particular generation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:52 AM on October 13


I have PTSD and I use Solitaire when I have anxiety attacks for distraction/relief. Tetris is too stressful for me.
I won't say the Solitaire in any way cures the underlying trauma, or stops the symptoms from happening, but it works as well as drugs for relief. For me.
posted by mumimor at 11:00 AM on October 13 [9 favorites]


I have PTSD, and games like Tetris, Woodoku, Word Scrambles, all help a lot when things are overwhelming. I turn off all the sounds, and then I play-- it helps derail intrusive thoughts and thought spirals caused by anxiety. Often, they help me finally relax enough so I can sleep. I'm really thrilled people are looking into this more deeply. Sometimes, therapy can come in small, beepy packages.
posted by headspace at 11:26 AM on October 13 [19 favorites]


from the study:

Critically, neither playing Tetris alone (a nonreactivation control condition) nor the control of memory reactivation alone was sufficient to reduce intrusions (Experiment 2). Analogously, simply playing an enjoyable computer game or mere reminders about trauma would be unlikely to reduce intrusions [...] A limitation of this study is that we used a trauma film as an experimental model for trauma and intrusion development. The film content was of events involving actual or threatened death and serious injury (APA, 2013), though this film viewing itself did not meet criteria for a traumatic event

this is also a very preliminary study with an n of 52 and 72 - I think if you are suffering from PTSD, you should still look to direct therapeutic intervention (if available) given that those pass the double blind gold standard and have hundreds of replications

someone with a much better handle on statistical analysis than I do (I think... there's something called a bell curve?) would be able to do a better critical analysis of the data to see if the effect size / significance may be skewed
posted by paimapi at 11:40 AM on October 13 [4 favorites]


Tetris, hours a night at times, got me through high school. Even at the time I thought of it as a self-medicating sort of ritual. I had a version that had tunes from Russian operas and even now I get kinda calmed down by the overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila.
posted by potrzebie at 12:46 PM on October 13 [4 favorites]


I've heard this for a while, and it seems very neat; but also a replication study linked further down in that twitter thread wasn't able to repeat the effect, so requisite note of caution/"I sure hope this gets studied further, because I very much want it to be true, but I'm wary of putting too much stock in things I want to be true"
posted by CrystalDave at 12:50 PM on October 13 [4 favorites]


Cribbage, digital cribbage. All numeric not even a real competitor.
posted by Oyéah at 1:09 PM on October 13


I love Tetris! I want this to be true! But here is a clear explanation of how poor the research quality is here
posted by jebs at 1:10 PM on October 13 [5 favorites]


If I play Tetris enough I don’t even need a device anymore, I can just close my eyes and my brain does it for me. I am immune to PTSD.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:27 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]


I wonder whether 2048/Threes would have anti-traumatic properties.
posted by acb

I've been having quite a breakdown physically and mentally the last few months. I've found myself playing about 30 mins of 2048 every night right before sleep, and that I seem to take that time to talk myself through things that are still burdening me from the day. It'd be nice to know it was doing more than that.

I could see Dr. Mario taking the place of Tetris as trauma-fighting as well. I can tear myself away from Tetris, but I've had to uninstall Dr. Mario from many a device to stop myself playing it obsessively.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:59 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]


i read that study coverage ages ago and kept Tetris on my phone specifically for this. Even now I rely on a small cache of puzzle and repetitive games to self soothe.

Studies like this matter and that follow up thread on why it’s not reliable research is such a good read, thanks jeb!

I always wondered if there was an overlap in people susceptible to hypnotic states and this effect, because the flow state of gaming has definitely gotten me through rough hospital stays.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:22 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]


2048 & Solitaire are great for getting my mind off airplane turbulence. Minesweeper: not so much.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:09 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


When I went through a very drawn out traumatic., I found myself gravitating to Dr Mario. It helped quite a bit, if only to allow my brain to relax.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 9:34 PM on October 13


I could see Dr. Mario taking the place of Tetris as trauma-fighting as well. I can tear myself away from Tetris, but I've had to uninstall Dr. Mario from many a device to stop myself playing it obsessively.

I just installed Dr Mario on my iPhone and after like two minutes it popped up an advisory that the game servers are closing on November 1st. So from my perspective this is the perfect game: I can play it and not worry about being hooked. At least for not more than a couple of weeks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:18 PM on October 13


God, don’t tell my high school students about this, or else they’ll be using this as an excuse to keep playing it on their laptops when they’re caught gaming.
posted by chronic sublime at 4:26 AM on October 14


I'm prone to hypnic jerks that will often lead to panic attacks.
I have a nonogram app on my phone and find it incredibly helpful - 5 or 10 quick puzzles and I'm normally good to drop off instead of staring at the ceiling for 2 or 3 hours.
And like Joe in Australia if I play it too long when I close the app I find my brain continues to "solve" potential puzzles.
posted by bowmaniac at 6:54 AM on October 14 [2 favorites]


I wonder what happens when we combine something like MDMA or psilocybin with Tetris Effect.


I've always wondered if EMDR would work well in combination in MDMA/psilocybin. Not my area of expertise, but I hope somebody else pursues it.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:38 AM on October 14


I'm just coming in to note that since Tetris 99 came out I basically play it multiple hours every night. Apropos of nothing that came out after 2016 and all that followed, now I'm not saying it's a form of therapy, but...
posted by symbioid at 10:17 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered if EMDR would work well in combination in MDMA/psilocybin.

I'm just starting in on EMDR and the therapist emphasized sobriety for the sessions. I still don't know a ton about it, I could see the technique being involved enough that a potentially (or even predominantly) randomizing factor wouldn't help and ultimately interfere with the whole thing. Two completely different kinds of guidance, simultaneously, would be some pro-level plate-spinning where one of the plates is a teddy bear and the other is a bottle cap.
posted by rhizome at 12:27 PM on October 14


a friend was in a pretty serious car accident yesterday. she seems to be ok, but she is having flashbacks and having a hard time sleeping. so I told her to play Tetris!! I'm really excited to be able to use this information and help someone.
posted by supermedusa at 9:51 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


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