The Healing Power of Tetris

Despite the wealth of data out there — and all the “brain-boosting” apps and products claiming they’ll keep your brain in fighting trim — the verdict is still out on whether puzzle-solving can prevent or positively impact Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other age-related mental issues.

But that doesn’t mean that puzzles and puzzle games can’t help in other ways.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have been treating people suffering from traumatic flashbacks — a form of accident-induced post-traumatic stress disorder — by having them play Tetris.

 Originally, the researchers tested this concept by showing unpleasant videos to test subjects and having them play Tetris for twenty minutes afterward. Their research showed that people who played the game — versus a control group that wrote about how they spend their time — suffered from fewer unpleasant and intrusive flashbacks or memories over the following week.

Apparently, the act of playing the game interferes with how people form the visual component of flashbacks. The gameplay doesn’t interfere with actual formation of memories, simply whether the brain will recall those unpleasant memories.

As it turns out, this might be a quality unique to Tetris or Tetris-style games. The same research team discovered that playing a quiz-style game made the flashbacks worse for those subjects than for the subjects who played no game at all after a traumatic event.

It appears that not only did Alexey Pajitnov create one of the most popular games of all-time, but that his legacy may also include helping the victims of traumatic events with their healing process. Amazing stuff.


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PuzzleNation Book Review: Tetris: The Games People Play

Welcome to another installment of PuzzleNation Book Reviews!

All of the books discussed and/or reviewed in PNBR articles are either directly or indirectly related to the world of puzzling, and hopefully you’ll find something to tickle your literary fancy in this entry or the entries to come.

Let’s get started!

The subject of today’s book review is Box Brown’s graphic novel Tetris: The Games People Play.

[Image courtesy of Macmillan.]

Tetris was a masterpiece right out of the gate. Simple, elegant, and infinitely replayable, it would go on to become one of the most beloved video games in history. And that popularity, that universal charm, sparked a bidding war unlike anything the video game world has ever seen. With secret meetings, dubious contracts, language barriers, and the involvement of the suffocating Soviet regime, it was a recipe for sitcom-style misunderstandings on a global scale.

Tetris: The Games People Play brings the whole ridiculous story to life with immense charm and style. From the creation of Alexey Pajitnov’s delightfully addictive brainchild to the globe-spanning race that ensued as production rights went international, this is a story as convoluted and madcap as it is epic.

Although the drawings accompanying the story are relatively simple, the large cast of characters — from executives and game designers to members of the Soviet government — never feels overwhelming or confusing.

[Image courtesy of DownTheTubes.net.]

Illustrator and author Box Brown brings the story to life with the same panache and colorful style that made his visual biography of Andre the Giant such a warm, enjoyable read. The rounded edges and busy frames help sell both the silliness and chaos of the story, and the mix of yellow, black, and white shading in each illustration harkens back to the earliest days of video games.

(The yellow feels especially inspired, given how easily the story could’ve bogged down in the omnipresent gray tones of Soviet society or the bureaucratic doubletalk that typifies business negotiations.)

Most importantly, Brown never allows readers to lose sight of Alexey’s role as creator and keeper of the faith, a man who, under one of the most oppressive regimes in history, brought to life a game that continues to delight generations of fans.

As entertaining as it is insightful, Tetris: The Games People Play is a fun, fascinating read.

[Tetris: The Games People Play is available in paperback wherever books are sold.]


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Hunger Games edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

And today, I’d like to talk about hunger and games! (No, not THOSE hunger games).

This year marked the 30th anniversary of Tetris, one of the all-time favorite video games in history, and I recently posted about the world record Tetris game played on the side of a skyscraper in Philadelphia.

But did you know that Tetris could be good for your health?

In a recent study, visually distracting and engaging games like Tetris were found to reduce the urge to snack by up to 24%!

From the article:

According to a theory called Elaborated Intrusion, our cravings are driven by visual images that often pop into our heads. With this in mind, Plymouth University psychologists Jessica Skorka-Brown, Jackie Andrade, and Jon May wondered if a visually based task, like playing a video game, could decrease the frequency of craving imagery, and with it, the cravings themselves.

Apparently, only three minutes of gameplay was needed to make an impact on food cravings!

As if we needed another reason to love those distinctive little blocks.

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Tetris edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

And today, we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Tetris! (Following up our post last year about the 29th anniversary of Tetris, of course.)

[Feel free to leave this a capella version of Tetris’s Theme A music by musician Smooth McGroove running in the background to properly set the mood.]

If crosswords are the top pen-and-paper puzzle and the Rubik’s cube is the top puzzle toy, then Tetris has to be the top puzzle game of all-time. It is instantly recognizable and completely unforgettable. (I still get a little anxious whenever I think about the music speeding up when I got too close to the top of the screen.)

It’s available for every video game console, computer, and media device, and has been for decades. Alexey Pajitnov’s incredibly addictive puzzle game baby has conquered the world, and today, we are proudly to join in the global celebration with a few of our favorite Tetris themed pictures.

We previously featured a Tetris Halloween costume in our puzzly costumes post, but these kids upped the ante with four Tetramino pieces as a team costume!

Someone even managed to render the blocks in origami form! How cool is that?

And then there’s this enterprising chef, who whipped up a Tetris-themed bento box full of blocky veggies to enjoy!

We’ve collected more Tetris images on a special board on our Pinterest page, so feel free to check them out in honor of today!

And to Alexey Pajitnov, thank you for years of puzzle pleasure. Your game has crossed borders and won the hearts of millions. You changed the puzzle landscape forever, and for the better.

In closing, here’s another famous Tetris tune performed a capella style for your enjoyment:

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

A milestone worth celebrating.

It was #5 on G4’s Top 100 Video Games of All-Time countdown, and has been consistently ranked as one of the top games of all-time by IGN, EGM, and gamers of all ages.

It’s Tetris, and it’s turning 29 this week. Yes, Alexey Pajitnov’s incredibly addictive puzzle game baby is ready to start freaking out about the future because it’s almost 30.

Tetris combines the quick reaction time and coolness under pressure of video games with several aspects of puzzlesolving to create a marvelous puzzle game experience.

Firstly, you have the improvisation and adaptability necessary for other tile-placement puzzle games like Scrabble (or Words with Friends for the app-savvy in the audience). But utilizing pieces very similar to those in a pentominoes puzzle — as I discussed a few weeks ago — you also have a spatial puzzle aspect reminiscent of a Brick by Brick.

(FYI, here’s a sample puzzle, provided by our pals at pennydellpuzzles.com.)

From scientific studies linking gameplay with lessened post-traumatic stress to utterly inspired pranks turning buildings into playable surfaces, Tetris has left an indelible mark on both puzzle culture and pop culture. (Plus, I suspect it’s made us all a little better at packing up the car for long trips.)

Happy Birthday, Tetris.