The game of Tetris was invented in the USSR 20 years ago

The Russian programmer, who invented the game, received absolutely no fee from the state for ten years

The game became an addiction to almost everyone. Schoolchildren were playing the game on the sly at classes, businessmen were using it as a break in between business talks, even elderly people were attracted to the game of Tetris.

The game celebrated 20 years of its history yesterday. The creator the cult game, Russian programmer Aleksey Pazhitnov, currently resides in the USA. The man has recently visited Russia for a couple of weeks, and it became possible to find out some details about the Tetris story.

Aleksey Pazhitnov said that the game appeared absolutely incidentally. Aleksey was 30 years old, when he was working in the computer center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “My job was connected with artificial intelligence, I also programmed puzzle games. One day I decided to program a well-known table game Pentomino: it is when small-squared figures of various forms should be placed in a box. I simplified the game as much as possible: figures were made of only four squares, and there were seven combinations in total. It also occurred to me to remove filled lines in order to let the game last a lot longer,” Aleksey said.

The game was given such a title, Tetris, from the Latin “tetra,” because of the number of small squares in a combination. The programmer added the ending “is” to the word to make it easy to remember.

Aleksey Pazhitnov became the first person to play the new game. When Tetris was born, the notion of software product did not exist in the USSR. Soviet computers were called “electronic computation machines.” When personal computers finally appeared, Aleksey and his assistant rewrote Tetris in a new format.

An English agent, a Hungarian by origin, was the first man to notice the game. “I was promoting my game in the USSR for years, going to all governmental institutions. It became popular in Europe and in the USA only in 1988. It became a cult game in the spring of the 1990, when Gameboy appeared. The game was sold in 30,000 copies,” Aleksey said.

The father of Tetris originally started promoting the game through governmental structures. That is why the computer center of the Academy of Sciences owned the rights for the game for ten years. Aleksey was paid nothing at all during that time; he started receiving fees since 1995.

Aleksey Pazhitnov can be referred to as a millionaire now, although only in Russia. The programmer owns millions of rubles, but he does not call himself a millionaire in the USA. Aleksey was invited to move to the USA in 1990. “I became a game designer. I do not have any global plans. Eight months ago I quit working for Microsoft – I wanted to have a rest. But I can return when I wish,” says he.

The game of Tetris is still a very popular computer game despite the immense competition on the market. The game has gone mobile during the recent three or four years: it became the most popular game in cellular phones in Europe and Japan. 

”Director Steven Spielberg once told me: Oh…This is such a good game!” That was so flattering. I remember a Japanese schoolboy asked me to sign a Tetris cartridge for him. When I did so, he glued it in his game station. That was the best appreciation of my work that I could ever have,” Mr. Pazhitnov said.  

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Author`s name Olga Savka