June 15, 2024
Tetris turns 40 with a grand old party | The DeanBeat

Tetris is one of those games you never get tired of. You grow up with it and pass it on as tradition to bring joy to a new generation. We know that because the game is still going strong at 40 years old.

The Tetris gaming family celebrated its history yesterday at a party in Los Angeles, just before the Summer Game Fest 2024 event. Alexey Pajitnov, who created Tetris while in the Soviet Union, was there to talk about his baby, which has sold more than 520 million copies worldwide.

Henk Rogers was there. He was the showman who saw the potential of Tetris and hunted down the rights, made a legally questionable and risky trip to the Soviet Union, and then licensed it to Nintendo. He later befriended Pajitnov, helping him get out of the Soviet Union — and they became lifelong friends. For decades, Rogers helped Tetris stay popular and spread joy around the world. Then he turned over The Tetris Company to his daughter Maya Rogers, who has carried on the work of spreading Tetris.

The Tetris movie debuts on March 31 on Apple TV+
The Tetris movie debuts on March 31 on Apple TV+

Maya Rogers helped orchestrate the deal to make the movie Tetris, a 2023 movie that told the story of the “greatest business development deal of all time.” It immortalized the story of one of the most iconic and beloved video games in history — and it added hundreds of millions of dollars to the Tetris coffers.

“Since Alexey created the original game, it’s been 40 years,” said Maya Rogers. “Happy birthday Tetris. Tetris is a global brand and it’s still relevant today.”

Willis “Blue Scuti” Gibson is in the middle between Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov.

Alexey Pajitnov created the game in 1984. It was simple, easy to play, and intuitive yet difficult to master. It was “beaten” finally last December by a 13-year-old boy, Willis “Blue Scuti” Gibson, who was also at the party last night as he was in town for a three-day competitive tournament that starts today in Pasadena, California — the Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) 2024.

Dean Takahashi and Nolan Bushnell.

In the crowd were various friends of the family, including former game journalists Tom Russo and Chris Kohler. Tina Kozalewski, founder of The Arsenal Agency and EVP at Giant Squid, was there with her autograph book. It had illustrations from luminaries like Shigeru Miyamoto, who sketched a Mario image and autographed it for Kozalewski decades ago. Since then, she has filled it up with autographed illustrations of other famous game developers.

Tina Kowalewski shows off her illustrated autograph book.

John Vignocchi and a crew of Nintendo leaders were there. So was Nolan Bushnell, the cofounder of Atari and the elder statesman of the game industry.

Dean Takahashi, John Vignocchi and a Nintendo colleague. (remind me someone).

Maya Rogers told the party crowd that Tetris has debuted as the first-ever branded add-on available in the Minecraft Marketplace, allowing players to enhance their worlds with Tetris-themed armor, weapons, decorative blocks, and unique monsters.

Tetris is 40.

And on July 30, 2024, the Tetris x Minecraft DLC will launch, offering a groundbreaking experience that merges Tetris block-dropping puzzling action with Minecraft’s adventurous dungeon crawling. Players will restore the Matrix by strategically placing Tetrimino pieces and then delve into the dungeons they’ve created, blending 2D Tetris gameplay with fully explorable 3D worlds.

Minecraft and Tetris.
Minecraft and Tetris are in a collab.

Meanwhile, playSTUDIOS has revamped the Tetris app on iOS and Android, giving it a new look where players can choose classic or other modes and engage in multiplayer play. And playSTUDIOS just launched Tetris Block Puzzle, a new mobile game designed to appeal to a more casual audience that combines the timeless fun of block puzzles with a Tetris twist.

You can celebrate World Tetris Day with a special discount on Tetris Effect: Connected. The game combines classic Tetris gameplay with stunning visuals and immersive soundscapes. The discount is available on all major platforms from June 6 to June 17, 2024. Meta Quest users can enter promo code TETRIS40-E1F685 at checkout.

Dean Takahashi and Maya Rogers.

And there will be a new Tetris game to be introduced with on the new Chromatic handheld by ModRetro, a company founded by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. The list of cool 40th anniversary items went on and on: a co-branded Rubik’s Cube, the Tetris Mini gaming device, bespoke Tetris-inspired art, Tetris collectibles showcasing the art of Kenny Wong, and Apmex commemorative coins. You can also give blood to The American Red Cross and get a Tetris/Red Cross T-shirt.

Dean Takahashi and Henk Rogers.

But I was happy enough to hear the war stories of Pajitnov and Henk Rogers, who spoke together with Maya Rogers and Kohler at the GamesBeat Next 2023 event last October. And I was delighted to see people that I’ve written stories about for decades talking about good times.

Pajitnov was modest and self-effacing. He said, “Thank you very much for coming. It’s a big day for me because it’s for my game. I’m still very modest guy doing my job promoting my game. But for my game, it’s very important day and frankly, I never thought it would be able to survive. Thank you very much for coming. Happy Birthday Tetris.”

Ever the showman, Henk Rogers pointed out the contrast between him and Pajitnov. He noted how the question that everyone asks him is how much of the Tetris movie was true.

“I did go to the Soviet Union in 1989 on a tourist visa and walk into a ministry that I really wasn’t supposed to walk into. And I really was thinking that I was surrounded by KGB agents,” Henk Rogers said. “I didn’t know whether I was going to be arrested. I mean, just imagine going to North Korea today and walking into a ministry and trying to talk to somebody. Not a good idea.”

Maya Rogers shows of the Tetris/Red Cross shirt.

People say that was a brave move, but another way of looking at it was it was stupid, Henk Rogers joked. Pajitnov broke the law by meeting with Henk Rogers. But they hit it off, Henk Rogers said, as they were both game designers.

“Alexey and I became friends that day, and we’ve been friends ever since. I couldn’t be more different,” Henk Rogers said. Maya Rogers piped in, “I agree. Oh, my God. They’re like the yin and the yang.”

“Alexey likes classical music. I like rock. He likes to plan things. I like to adventure. And we actually went on a Europe trip together, the two of us. And the way we did it is one day is Alexey’s day. All planned. He figures out exactly where we’re going to stay, where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. And t”he other day, it’s my turn. And we just get on a random train. And we don’t know where we’re going to end up or where we’re going to stay. It’s just an adventure.”

Henk Rogers said he is bringing Pajitnov to Burning Man this year.

Henk Rogers, Dean Takahashi and Alexey Pajitnov.

“Even though we’re completely different, we are best friends,” Henk Rogers said. “I would like to propose a toast to Alexei positive who created the game. Maya alluded to Mr. Tetris. Sometimes people call me this. I am not Mr. Tetris. If you want to call me something, call me Dr. Tetris because I kept Tetris alive all these years. So he created the game and my job was to keep it alive. So now I’ve passed that baton over to Maya.”

Indeed, raise a toast to Alexey Pajitnov, and always remember the game that has brought so much joy into the world across generations.

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