Game Name – Tetris
ESRB Rating – N/A
Suggested Age – 10 and up
Genre – Puzzle
Educational Values – Problem Solving, Visual Discrimination, Spatial Reasoning, Time Management
Platform – iPhone, iPad, Nintendo DS, PC, Pretty Much Everything Ever
Where to buy – iPhone App Store, Android, www.Tetris.com, Facebook
Would we buy it? – This game makes the question seem a little ridiculous. Of course we would buy it.
The box art from the original Nintendo version
About the Game
It is one of the simplest and most difficult games of all time. I don’t have to spend my space here explaining to anyone what the gameplay is like, or how good it feels to get that long straight piece, or even the soundtrack to the game. You probably started humming it as soon as you read the title.
For the three of you who are reading this and have not played Tetris, I would encourage you to stop reading this and play for a few minutes. If you just can’t be bothered, let me explain. Tetris is a simple puzzle game where you are presented with a “well” or “shaft” that is ten blocks wide. Pieces fall from the top of the shaft to the bottom one at a time, and your goal is to line them up with lines all the way across horizontally.
There are seven shapes which can all be rotated in 90 degree intervals. And over time, the shapes fall faster and faster. Due to the speed mechanic, the tension is constantly ramped up. You are forced to plan for the future, while balancing the need to get this piece down and try to review and plot where the next piece will fall.
This is all you get to work with.
What the Game Teaches Us
Tetris is recommended for students who are trying to apply for graduate school. It teaches you to be strategic in your choices. It teaches you to choose your moves carefully.
It is also a game that does not lend itself to multitasking. So much of modern life is about listening to the television while texting while trying to maintain a conversation while eating. Tetris demands your full attention. It requires constant analysis, synthesis and evaluation. It requires a balancing of long term versus short term goals. It is an ongoing puzzle with multiple solutions. There is no always ‘right’ answer which is good for differentiated instruction. And it does it all using gameplay mechanics that children can play with no one teaching them the rules of the game.
Even with all of the above, my favorite thing about Tetris is that it teaches the gamer that it is OK to fail. Tetris allows the gamer to just start again and keep going. Many nights have been lost to people wanting to try “just one more round”. It has been argued extensively that one of the greatest gifts video games give to children is the knowledge that they are going to fail a lot, and that it alright. It is not the end of the world when the well fills up and you have to restart. It is just another opportunity to do better.
In this way, the gamer passes from the Cognitive domain, into the Affective domain of receiving and responding to learning stimulus. Moving from Bloom’s Taxonomy to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Tetris appeals strongly to those gamers with spatial intelligence.
It’s not just about this piece, it’s about all the upcoming pieces.
General Feelings on the Game
As I said before, this game can be picked up by a five year old in five minutes flat. It requires no instructions or tutorial. Part of its broad appeal is that anyone can learn it, play it, and enjoy it. While modern games grow in complexity (which is not necessarily a bad thing), there is always something to be said for the simplicity of Tetris.
While writing this article, I took a spin at www.freetetris.org and had to drag myself away from it to finish typing this up. I have played Tetris for more than 20 years, and still enjoy it. There are not a lot of things in my life that I can say that about. If you have the opportunity to introduce someone to this game, do so immediately!