In the late ‘80s, one of the most well-known video games was Tetris. Originally from the Soviet Union and released in arcades and on a multitude of home computer platforms, the game was most popular when released for the Game Boy - in fact, it sold more than any other game on the system, with more than 35 million copies produced.
If you’re unaware, Tetris is a deceptively simple puzzle game. Blocks made up of 4 squares, called tetronimoes, fall from the top of a field to the bottom. If you complete a line of squares from left to right, that line will disappear and all the blocks above it will drop. If you clear four lines at once, the maximum, that’s called a Tetris and you get extra points. If you fill up the field all the way to the top, that’s game over. The longer you play, the faster and less forgiving the gameplay becomes.
Tetris was - and still is - a cultural phenomenon. But it turns out Tetris is also a psychological phenomenon. Several studies have detailed the Tetris effect, where researchers have found subjects involuntarily daydreaming about stacking things - boxes in supermarkets or buildings in a skyline, after playing a lot of Tetris. There’s also a benefit - people experiencing the Tetris effect did better on written tests of spatial visualization; and when viewed in an MRI, people who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day or more had a thickening of brain grey matter vs people who hadn’t played. This appears to allow the brain to work more efficiently.
Later this year, a new Tetris game, named after the Tetris effect, will be released with Playstation 4. It will feature music and sound effects that are directed by the gameplay itself, creating a more immersive and almost hypnotic experience. The game will even support Playstation’s virtual reality headset, allowing for the deepest immersion in a Tetris game yet.
Tetris Effect trailer: