Video Games

From Russia with Fun!

First let me start off by saying Happy 25 Tetris! It’s hard to believe video games are actually becoming fully functioning adults (to use the human ageing convention). Tetris bares mentioning because of it’s extreme worldwide penetration. You would be hard pressed to find a game that has found it’s home on so many devices; consoles, mobile phones, computers, graphing calculators, etc. It’s also hard to find a game as immediately addicting as Tetris. As soon as those tetraminoes start falling the outside world becomes inconsequential and the sole purpose for existing is clearing line after line.

I was informed, when doing a little anniversary research, of a documentary done in 2004 by the BBC entitles “Tetris: From Russia with Love.” It is the story of Tetris’s conception at the Soviet Academy of Sciences by creator Alexey Pajitnov. I knew a little history prior about how there were some legal battles over the rights to Tetris between Tengen (Atari Games) and Nintendo, but I had no idea the extent of it. After viewing (which I recommend) I was surprised by how much the story reflected the times. It was the 80’s and the Cold War was in full effect between Soviet Russia and the United States, which showed itself in how the dealings of Tetris were handled. It had some home videos taken by one of the people who came to obtain the license, and it was bleak. It’s hard to imagine anything looking so grey. Moscow looked very depressing, very 1984-esque. People can talk about it, but until you see something it’s head to actually imagine. I won’t go into too detail much because the documentary does a much better job than I could do here, but suffice it to say the dealings were very convoluted.

Tetris: From Russia With Love Part 1

Tetris: From Russia With Love Part 2

Tetris: From Russia With Love Part 3

Tetris: From Russia With Love Part 4

Tetris: From Russia With Love Part 5

Tetris: From Russia With Love Part 6

The one part that struck a chord with me was the demeanour of creator Alexey Pajitnov. If anyone deserves to hold a grudge it is this man. He got, to put it eloquently, royally boned. At the time when Alexey created Tetris he could claim nothing, but the admiration of people because it belonged to the Soviet government, everything did. When everything did get sorted out the people making money seemed to be everyone, but him. Even though this transpired before his eyes and he is very aware of it, he doesn’t seem to mind. He just seems like he is enjoying life and holds no ill-will. I really think more people need to emulate his attitude. I don’t want to get into too much of a philosophical debate due to this article being Tetris themed, but just the idea that he created something people enjoy and that he can live with that instead of having to be monetarily gratified is awesome.

While I was going through all this Tetris stuff I was getting the urge to discover it’s true roots. With all the versions and clones, I wanted to play the original one. Well, the original version was programmed in Pascal on an old Russian computer called the Elektronika 60. Due to the rare nature of that machine, I was unable to locate an emulator and subsequent Tetris software, which got me a little bummed. I will not abandon my search, but right now I am empty handed. I tried the next one up, the IBM-PC port. Truth be told, this is the one that got passed around the world and made the game as popular as it was. I mean who really had an Elektronika 60? T give credit where credit is due, Vadim Gerasimov was the man that actually ported the software and lead to it’s insane popularity. Thanks Vadmin! I did manage to find that program pretty easily and emulate it in DOSBox. It is surprisingly fast and accurate. I was expecting something clunkier and less responsive. I could play that one and be happy. Here is some screens of how it looks. Pretty standard DOS game.

Title Screen
Title Screen
Game Play
Game Play

Overall, thanks Tetris. Here is to another 25! Kanpai!

One reply on “From Russia with Fun!”

woo. if only i had known this BEFORE i went to Russia. i could’ve hunted one of those computers down for you so you could just feel amazing and play the original version!
oh well i think you’ll survive somehow… 🙂

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