The Power Of Tetris To Improve Human Performance
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 24 July 2022

This is a new twist on human computer interaction. Today's teenagers have evolved, or at least have evolved new behaviors, in order to excel at Tetris.

Playing computer games is a recognized form of self-improvement. You can boost you reaction times, enhance your hand/eye co-ordination and expand your short term memory while having fun hunched over your smartphone or sitting in front of a monitor.

Tetris players, however, have taken behavioral evolution to a new level.

The falling blocks game Tetris was created in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov and once it put onto the Nintendo Entertainment System console it became an instant success - these days we would say it went viral but that term hadn't gained currency back then.

The first Classic Tetris World Championship was held in 2010 for filming a documentary, Ecstay of Order:The Tetris Masters - see our report which includes the film's trailer and a link to its website. Although the contest originated in order to make a film it took on a life of its own and from 2012 has been part of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, apart from 2020 and 2021 when it held online. The 

While there were many variants of Tetris by 2010, the contestants played the 1989 Nintendo version of Tetris on actual Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and CRT televisions. The inaugural tournament was won by by Jonas Neubauer, who also reached the finals in the first nine iterations of the tournament and won the title of World Champion on seven occasions.

If you want to know how he did this here's an introduction to competitive Testris from Jonas Neubauer from 2017, the final year in which he was awarded the 1st Place Trophy.

To the great shock and sadness of the community, Neubauer died suddenly in January 2021.The Classic Tetris World Championship trophy was renamed the Jonas Neubauer Memorial Trophy, and redesigned as a golden J-tetromino for the 2021 online event.

When Neubauer was defeated in 2018 his opponent Joseph Saelee, then aged 16 and a newcomer to the game used the "hypertapping" technique that was coming to dominate competitive play. Rather than maneuvering pieces into place by holding down the left or right on the retro D-pad, this method of play, innovated by Koji "Koryan" Nishio, requires players to press the D-pad rapidly at the the correct intervals in order to move Tetris pieces in different directions without losing speed. As it requires more than 10 button presses a second to be effective, it’s a riskier and more demanding style of play and is also difficult to learn and punishing on the body.


Hypertapping had already seen the records set by Neubauer convincingly swept away but adopting rolling has resulted in more breakthroughs. For example, in the 2021 CTWC semifinal between Saelee and Jacob Huff, Saelee was averaging scores above one million, but it wasn’t enough. According to Chris Karnadi writing on Polygon:

Huff was able to play well past the kill screen, once to level 36 and once to level 40, and catch up to him, no matter how high Saelee had scored. 

However, although Huff employed rolling in the 2021 final, he was beaten there by the 2020 Wold Champion 14-year old Michael "Dog" Artiga who had beaten his older brother Andy "Pixel" Artiga the previous year, when they played online in adjacent bedrooms.

Since then Andy Artiga has adopted rolling. According to the report on Polygon in a monthly competition in May 2022 he won a match that broke the world record for highest combined score in a single game, highest losing score (1.5 million), and highest winning score (2.1 million). Artiaga reached level 58, a full 29 levels after the game’s kill screen.

This isn't the record, however, That it was achieved in April when a young player reached level 95 with a score of 3.7 million, beating the previous world record by 1.4 million points:

As Chris Karnadi comments today's teenagers are achieving scores more than three times higher than those that Neubauer and other older players even imagined possible just a few years ago.  And for this feat to happen has required a step change in both mental and physical agility. 


More Information

Teens are rewriting what is possible in the world of competitive Tetris

Related Articles

Ecstasy of Order - a Tetris Documentary

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 July 2022 )