Tetris Documentary
October 27, 2006 12:03 AM   Subscribe

Tetris - From Russia with Love (Google Video) A BBC documentary about Tetris and its creator Alexey Pajitnov.
posted by loquacious (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I watched this last night, but want to save it. Do you have a direct link to a file? It was really good...
posted by Chris Brummel at 12:22 AM on October 27, 2006

Neat. I am still reeling from a recent encounter with Pajitnov's Hatris.
posted by phooky at 12:36 AM on October 27, 2006

I was deeply addicted to an MS-DOS Tetris clone named Nyet from about 1989 onwards. Nice to get some background on the game.
posted by Loudmax at 12:56 AM on October 27, 2006

A tiny little video rental place where my grandmother lived had a copy of the Tengen version of Tetris for the NES which I rented at least 20 times despite owning the Nintendo version.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:44 AM on October 27, 2006

Save it with keepvid.
posted by metaplectic at 2:59 AM on October 27, 2006

Here is BBC Four's own mini-site related to the documentary including an interview with the director. It is a brilliant piece of work, originally broadcast during a season of programmes about Russia. Its particularly insightful about the vagaries of rights ownership and who could produce copies of the game.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:13 AM on October 27, 2006

Yes! Nyet! I remember playing it on a black & white Hercules monitor, then later color.
posted by alexei at 3:23 AM on October 27, 2006

I remember when it first came out and swept across virtually every BBS overnight. A pretty good trick back then, when the online world was more like disconnected and localized pockets of people.

/[Grampa Simpson]And the Kaiser was determined to corner turnip market, so we had to wear onions from our belt, which was the style of the day ... [/Grampa Simpson]
posted by RavinDave at 4:14 AM on October 27, 2006

Great post (obviously)!
posted by TetrisKid at 4:56 AM on October 27, 2006

Back in 1993 our small start-up was looking for a skilled programmer to out-source a C project and a Russian applied with the name Alexey Pajitnov who said he invented Tetris but was screwed as no one ever paid him for it. This was right after the fall of the Soviet Union and there were a lot of Russians coming into the DC region so it seemed possible (who knew?), he seemed convincing. In the end we ended up not believing him, but were never sure. Seeing this I'm now sure it was not.
posted by stbalbach at 6:37 AM on October 27, 2006

You know, it's a good thing the deadline on my latest freelance job got pushed back from today to Monday, because I spent an hour of my morning watching that. I started out just wanting to see if they pronounced Pazhitnov's name correctly, and then I got hooked; I wanted to see him and Henk and Belikov (who I originally thought was just another faceless Soviet bureaucrat) do well and the other bastards get burned. (Can you believe the son-of-a-bitch calling Belikov a son-of-a-bitch because Belikov had the nerve to insist on the terms of the original agreement?) Lots of fun, and I was never even a Tetris fan (though a coworker of mine was completely addicted to it back in the day). Thanks for the post!

Oh, and no, it wasn't pronounced anywhere near correctly—fucking BBC and their fucking condescension to wogs and their funny woggy names. I almost quit watching because I couldn't stand listening to that woman say "puh-CHIT-nee-off" one more time. It's PAH-zhit-nuff, is that so hard? Just like Boris Badenov, except with pah as in pahk your cah in Hahvahd Yahd and zhit with zh like the s in leisure. PAHzhitnov. Or Pajitnov, if you like pseudo-French spellings. It's Пажитнов anyway.
/cranky Russophile

On preview:

Seeing this I'm now sure it was not.

Uh, I have no idea what that means. What was not what?
posted by languagehat at 7:41 AM on October 27, 2006

If I ever get accidentally sucked via a wormhole back to ca 1985 my plan is to beat this guy to market with Tetris for the Apple II, etc.

As far as intellectual property goes, this one has got a pretty good bang for the buck.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:38 AM on October 27, 2006

Before I found ANSI Tetris on my local BBS, I must have dropped thousands of quarters on the standup machine at my local arcade.

And then the Gameboy came out. Packaged with Tetris. Multiplayer Tetris. I saved up all summer for that thing. I remember walking out of the Toys r Us store, making it as far as the exit foyer before plunking myself down on the ground, feverishly opening the package, slapping the batteries and Tetris cart in and playing ...until the batteries ran out. I went back in and bought a new set, and killed those. And then again.

By that time about 6-8 hours had passed and I had killed three sets of batteries dead-flat, my butt was dead-numb, they were closing, and they actually refused to sell me any more batteries. God damn that hurt. I really needed more batteries.

Keep in mind this whole ultraportable thing was a brand new experience. To be able to fade into that world - anywhere I wanted - was really and truly a life changing experience. For me, because of the timing and my age and everything else, that long afternoon of being totally and utterly lost, vanished and just gone in a public space is perhaps only second to the internet itself as a technology-driven transformative experience, perhaps even trumping affordable digital cameras. And for me? That's saying something.

Walking the mile and a half home was interesting, and from what I understand, a common tale. Multicolored tetraminos where falling from the sky filling in the gaps between homes, trees and buildings, which is odd because the original Gameboys - of course - are really crude black and white LCDs. My brain seemed to be locked in a fugue... "Must... efficiently... fill in... gaps... with... blocks!! MUST PACK EFFICIENTLY. RUNNING OUT OF SPACE! OH GOD THE BLOCKS THEY KEEP COMING. PACK FASTER!"

I couldn't get home fast enough. There were batteries there.

I still play Tetris. I've played dozens and dozens of variations, on nearly every console and portable type, in nearly every popular desktop OS.

I'm hard pressed to think of any other game that has so profoundly altered the way I see the world, how I think spatially. Packing a moving truck? Slip your brain into Tetris-mode! Grocery shopping? Tetris! Cleaning up your room? Tetris! Putting away the groceries? TETRIS!

Sure, there have been many other mind-altering video games, Katamari Damacy being an obvious recent example, but do you really use your Katamari Damacy skills to pack up a moving van? I sure hope not!

It's not at all to say that Tetris is "mindless" fun. It's like it's thinking very deeply and intently without having to think, or think about thinking. Something about the game taps very deeply into the spatial, rational and logic areas of the human mind and experience, without being overtly or overly taxing. When deep in a good Tetris trance, it's very nearly a perfect example of Zen's "effortless effort". You're very intently doing something, but if you're doing it right you're defocused, in the flow and not entirely conscious of what's going on.

So far, to date, no other single puzzle game or genre has been able to cover all those facets and provide the same sort of flow to me. A few have come awfully close, but the vast majority either fall far short - or they're Tetris clones.
posted by loquacious at 8:48 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

metaplectic, I tried KeepVid, but it says it can't find the video. Still looking for the source.
posted by Chris Brummel at 9:10 AM on October 27, 2006

loquacious… high score? How many lines?

My wife plays tetris on our gameboy while she pedals furiously on a stationary bicicle!

I got 161 lines once and retired as champion of our apartment. (She still get's beaten at around 140)
posted by JBennett at 9:32 AM on October 27, 2006

On the original Gameboy Tetris linked multiplayer I was undefeatable.

On mode A I peaked at around level 29, which I believe is 290+ lines.

On the "original" standup arcade I peaked at around level 15, maybe 20, but the arcade version is harder, and a big-ass 8-way joystick is no way to play Tetris.

However, I have had my ass regularly handed to me in newer versions of Tetris. This disturbing phenomenon will likely increase as I get older.

Note to game designers: Tetris blocks must "click" down the well a block at a time, not scroll smoothly. If you make your blocks scroll smoothly it's not actually Tetris.
posted by loquacious at 9:51 AM on October 27, 2006

I always preferred Puyo Puyo - it's similar to Tetris but with chain reactions. Here is a pretty decent java clone for your enjoyment.

Of course I had been a tetris freak before Puyo came out - but the added complexity of deep, always changing cause-and-effect in puyo, complementing "the spatial, rational and logic areas of the human mind and experience" makes it a singularly beautiful union of thought and non-thought, which has probably shaped my mental processes more than any other computer game I can think of right now.
posted by MetaMonkey at 9:57 AM on October 27, 2006

I don't really allow myself to play tetris anymore very often. I can sit for hours on end and not stop playing. When I play too much I start dreaming of Tetris blocks and how they fit together and I see them when I close my eyes to try to sleep. I didn't realize it was an actual effect. Thanks for the post. I think I'll fire up my ole' NES right now...
posted by catseatcheese at 1:30 PM on October 27, 2006

Chris, you need to clean up the Google URL first. Here is a direct link to the avi version.
posted by metaplectic at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2006

Great! Thanks for that link. Downloading now...
posted by Chris Brummel at 5:18 PM on October 27, 2006

Lumines Live is a fun near-clone.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:56 PM on October 27, 2006

great link -coming from the UK I had actually watched this on tv but appreciate both the original link and metaplectic's avi file
fascinating stuff.
posted by Flamingoroad at 8:13 PM on October 27, 2006

Amazing video - I started watching it out of just my love for Tetris and video games, but the politics and rights-battle was really interesting. Great link.
posted by Zephyrial at 1:12 PM on October 28, 2006

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