Tetris

TetrisI have recently become heavily addicted to Ksirtet – a KDE tetris clone. I have a strong feeling that I have played it a few years ago but I cannot be sure, due to lesions in my lateral temporal neocortex. I cannot remember who told me about the lesions. Tetris has an interesting history with a double murder suicide as a human interest angle. There are hundreds of versions of the game and you can even use your cell phone to play it on a 26 story building in France. The original inventors made almost no money due to the fact that games are not protected under copyright.

Why is Tetris so addictive? It is like an electronic drug – a “pharmatronic” according to Wired. Studies have shown that playing tetris increases the consumption rate of glucose in the brain giving a slight high. However after 4 to 8 weeks of playing tetris daily, the brain seems to get more efficient and the consumption rate of glucose drops down to normal levels while the score increases seven-fold on an average. Pokhilko, the psychologist who seemed to need treatment himself had this to say about the game

The main part is visual insight. You make your visual decision and it happens almost immediately. Insight means emotion: small, but many of them, every two, three seconds. The second mechanism is unfinished action. Tetris has many unfinished actions [that] force you to continue and make it very addictive. The third is automatization: in a couple of hours, the activity becomes automatic, a habit, a motivation to repeat.

Unfinished actions means that you can change your mind about your decisions upto the very last millisecond.

tetris buildingI started playing this so much that every time I closed my eyes I would see images of blocks falling and put into place. Studies have also been done to show how tetris dreams help in learning to play the game. Considering the amount that I sleep, I should be better than the qow. However, maybe it is the cataloging of those dreams (which I do not do) that are important. Hmm. Tetris taxonomy is going to be useful while sledging in the two player version of the game.

The game is inherently quite evil, because even if you play perfectly, you are destined to lose almost all the time. Several optimization problems in tetris have been shown to be NP-complete making it hard to devise a good algorithm to play the game. Heidi Burgiel has explained that if you only get alternating S’s and Z’s (also known as left snake and right snake) then you are going to lose the game in less than 70,000 moves. If that is not evil enough for you there is also Bastard Tetris (installed in /zz/pub) where the game shows you the best piece and then give you the worst possible piece.

One Response to “Tetris”

  1. DrTandem Says:

    I played the game some years ago and quickly became addicted. This was strange for me, as I really don’t like video games. One evening I started playing it and after what seemed like five minutes, the sun was rising.

    While not playing the game, I started looking for patterns. For instance, watching the TV news, I would imagine the perfect block to fall between the newscaster’s head and shoulder and the side of the screen.

    I mentioned this “addiction” to others and to my surprise, I was far from alone. I then stopped playing. It was difficult, but I never played it again. I never will for fear that I’ll be drawn back to it.

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