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Tetris Turns 30

Flickr user micahtaylor

On June 6, 1984, the computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov launched the side project he'd been working on at Moscow's Academy of Science of the USSR: a simple video game—an almost ridiculously simple video game—he called Tetris. In short order, his creation would be called "by far, the most addictive game ever." It would also be dubbed the "greatest game of all time." 

In the 30 years since it's been a part of our lives, Tetris—its angled blocks, its earwormy theme song—has infiltrated our lives and our culture. It has starred in TV shows and symphonies and research papers. It has helped us to waste time. And to pass it. In honor of Tetris's 30th birthday, here at 3o things to know about the game. 

1. Beyonce grew up playing it

2. It was part of the closing ceremonies for the Special Olympics in Sochi, with the game's tetrominoes spelling out the word "IMPOSSIBLE." 

3. There is such thing as Jenga Tetris

4. There is also such thing as the "Tetris effect": the phenomenon whereby you play a game for so long that you start seeing its frameworks outside the game. 

5. Tetris's tagline when it launched with Nintendo was "FROM RUSSIA WITH FUN!"

6. Due to tetrominoes' function "as a proxy for molecules with a complex shape," Tetris models have been used to study the thermodynamics of nanoparticles

7. In 1988, the IBM version of Tetris sold for $34.95. The Commodore 64 version cost $24.95.

8. Tetris has been featured on The Simpsons

9. It has also been featured on Family Guy

10. It has also been featured on Futurama

11. It has also been featured in Office Space

12. Pajitnov initially created Tetris to test the potential of Soviet computers.

13. He wrote it on an Elektronika-60 computer.

14. Days after Pajitnov invented it, his boss at the Soviet Academy of Science in Moscow banned the game at all the academy's computer workstations.

15. Tetris is named for a combination of the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (since all of the game's pieces contain four segments) and tennis, which was Pajitnov's favorite sport. 

16. Tetris was the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the U.S.

17. Some argue that, much like porn played a role in ensuring the success of VCRs, Tetris played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the Game Boy when it launched in 1989. And the Game Boy, in turn, helped to popularizeTetris—which was one of the five game cartridges Nintendo included in the box with its first run of the devices.

18. The Twitter account @TetrisQuotes includes the tweet, "I would like to thank Tetris for providing me with the skills to jam as many dishes as possibly into my dishwasher."

19. You can hack an oscilloscope and to play Tetris

20. There is an orchestral version of the Tetris theme song. It is awesome. 

21. There are Tetris-themed serving dishes. They are also awesome.

22. There are Tetris-themed shiny leggings available on Etsy. They are not at all awesome.

23. Tetris pieces have starred in droll cartoons

24. Cognitive scientists have found a correlation between length of Tetrissession and efficiency of brain activity: The longer you play, the better primed your brain is to do the playing.

25. Researchers have also found that Tetris can provide a “quick and manageable" solution for people struggling to stick to diets.

26. Tetris is the subject of a documentary, Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters

27. There are currently more than 60 known variations of Tetris, both official and unofficial. 

28. One of them is named Not Tetris.

29. There is a Tetris-themed Bop-It

30. In a thesis written in 1992, John Brzustowski asked whether it would be theoretically possible to play a never-ending game of Tetris. The conclusion he reached was that, given the frequency of the S and Z-shaped blocks, "the game is inevitably doomed to end."

(Image via Flickr user micahtaylor)

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