For decades, Tetris had been a game considered unbeatable by human players. The iconic puzzler allows gamers to build rows of falling blocks by rotating them to fit together until the blocks disappear from a player’s screen and the player’s score increases. The NES version of the game was first released in 1989, and until now, it has never been defeated by a human player. That changed this month when 13-year-old Oklahoma teen Willis Gibson, known online as “Blue Scuti,” achieved a mind-boggling accomplishment by reaching the “kill screen” of the game and causing it to crash. He achieved this feat in less than 39 minutes.
The emergence of Blue Scuti as the first human player to reach the “kill screen” of the NES version of Tetris is a massive milestone for the gaming world and a significant upset for the original Tetris designers who had deemed the game unbeatable. The fact that a human was able to achieve the goal demonstrates the power of the game’s infinitely challenging design and its ability to keep players coming back for more. Tetris capitalizes on the Zeigarnik Effect, a psychological phenomenon that describes humans’ innate desire to complete tasks despite the knowledge that those tasks will forever be incomplete.
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In the case of the NES version of the game, achieving the kill screen involves reaching such high levels of play that the game’s memory banks are overloaded, and it crashes. This is a unique achievement because most video games are designed to stop playing when a player is defeated rather than the other way around.
While some gamers have been able to get the game to crash through special techniques, they have yet to manage to do so at such high levels as Gibson did. His victory is even more impressive, considering that he did so just weeks after other gamers reached level 157. Gibson dedicated his victory to his father, who passed away a few weeks ago.
It may seem like a trivial accomplishment to some, but to a legion of Tetris fans, this is huge. The teen’s success also demonstrates how enduring and popular the game is. Invented by software engineer Alexey Pajitnov and initially released for PCs in 1984 and later for the NES in 1989, the classic puzzler continues to be played on many different platforms today. Unsurprisingly, a new generation is picking up the game and enjoying its endlessly engaging gameplay.