A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

Jan 5, 2024 | Gaming

What does it take for a human to beat Tetris?

A 13-year-old gamer just became the first human to “beat Tetris,” setting a precedent for competitors looking to conquer the everlasting classic.

Photo: Benjamin Suter / Unsplash

The enduring simplicity of Tetris is simply addicting. “We all have a natural desire to create order out of chaos,” said Alexey Pajintov, the creator of Tetris. “The game of Tetris satisfies that desire on a very basic level.” The game has no enemies — just colored blocks of varying shapes looking to be organized. Despite the rudimentary nature of its gameplay,

On Dec. 21, 13-year-old gamer Willis “Blue Scuti” Gibson — a competitive Tetris player — managed to beat classic Tetris on NES, breaking three world records in the process. Getting to Level 157, Gibson had the game reveal its “kill screen,” the point where Tetris’ code glitches, crashing the game.

The game had been considered unbeatable until recently, with only AI ever having beat it. Playing a cruel game on the player, Tetris eventually reaches a point where the blocks fall so unbelievably fast that the flat-lined harmony no longer seems feasible. So what does it take to beat a game that isn’t meant to end?

As writer Jeffrey Goldsmith noted in the Wired article on the game, playing Tetris initially leads to a significant increase in cerebral glucose metabolic rates, meaning that brain energy consumption soars. While energy consumption reverts to normals after four to eight weeks of daily doses, “performance increases seven-fold, on average,” he wrote. What’s happening is remarkable: Tetris is beyond immersive — it overrides the brain to the extent that it can reduce the frequency of traumatic memories and reduce dysfunctional cravings. In other words, the game takes so much attention that several other mental processes are sidelined.

As Polygon reports, Gibson’s winning strategy was a culmination of newer strategies like “hypertapping” and “rolling” — essentially a step above button mashing that allows players to “operate the NES controller even faster than the buttons by tapping the underside of the controller.” Rolling has recently dominated the competitive scene, which involves the player rolling their fingers on the controller while applying pressure on the d-pad from the underside.

Techniques that have recently overtaken the competitive scene are only going to get better — as players now search for ways to go beyond level 157 without triggering the game’s kill screen.