Derek Tillotson


I fall into phases where I get into Tetris. Usually my Tetris of choice has been one of the arcade games (The Grand Master 2 is my favorite) or whatever the newest one I can get my hands on is (currently, that's the single player add-on for Tetris 99 on Switch). But lately, I've been changing it up and have been playing Tetris for the NES. It kicks my ass unlike any other game in the series. For the uninformed, NES Tetris lacks nearly all the bells and whistles modern Tetris embraces. It is built to be challenging.

What amazes me even more are the players who excel. The intimacy they've built between themselves and the game is a testament to the time and effort they put in. High level Tetris players (no matter which game in the series) are effectively one with the machine.

Do I have any desire to get to a level where I score so many points, the game is unable to register more? Not particularly. That would be a fun ability to possess, but reaching that point isn't why I enjoy the game.

But Tetris (as well as most twitch-heavy puzzle video games) provides me with three tangible benefits:

  1. It forces me to think in a way I wouldn't otherwise. There are other puzzle games I enjoy, such as Picross, which force me to think logically. But Tetris makes me play the risk/reward game with little time to react.
  2. Beating my high score gives me a goal to accomplish. I'm not a huge fan of strictly-defined personal goals, but little ones that don't bother me if I come up short are totally fine by me.
  3. It gives me a few minutes of fun. Even when I'm terrible, I enjoy myself playing Tetris. Probably because I know I have no desire to be competitive.

Lately, I've been falling back to building a daily routine. Tetris is by no means a permanent part of that routine, but puzzles of some sort will be. Puzzle video games, crossword puzzles, chess puzzles, jigsaw puzzles--they all get the brain going and make me think. And as long as I'm not falling into a rut where I'm spending time away from writing, working, reading, and self-improvement, those puzzles are going to be a mainstay.

Written January 29, 2020

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