'Pointless' Tetris 30 years old and still 'compelling'

A first generation GameBoy and a Tetris game cartridge. Credit: PA

Tetris, the puzzle game that launched in 1984, has had people hooked for 30 years because it appeals to the basic mental instinct to tidy things, an expert said.

This is is the view of Dr Tom Stafford from Sheffield University, who has marked the game's 30th birthday by analysing the addictive and timeless nature of the title, that originated in the former Soviet Union. June 6 is also known as World Tetris day.

Dr Stafford said: "Tetris is the granddaddy of puzzle games like Candy Crush saga - the things that keep us puzzling away for hours, days and weeks.

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Dr Tom Stafford discussing why such a simple game is so compelling. Credit: PA

"Tetris is pure game: there is no benefit to it, nothing to learn, no social or physical consequence. It is almost completely pointless, but keeps us coming back for more and more."

In a video posted to YouTube, Dr Stafford goes on to say that the tidying and puzzle-solving aspect of the game delivers the same kind of psychological satisfaction as scratching an itch, and that has played a large part in the game remaining so popular.

A version of Tetris is available for almost every type of gaming device produced since its launch, and the Soviet Union-developed title has been named the greatest game of all time on more than one occasion.

"Tetris is so moreish that one writer called it 'pharmatronic' - an electronic with all the mind altering properties of a drug," Dr Stafford said. "The so-called Tetris Effect is when you close your eyes at night after a few hours of playing the game and you can still see the blocks falling down, in your mind's eye. Or you look at patterns on the floor and you make tessellations of the Tetris blocks in the tiles."

The Tetris Effect appears to still be alive and well 30 years later, given that the latest games consoles on the market - the Xbox One and Playstation 4, have both confirmed versions of the game this year as part of the anniversary celebrations.

A 1989 Nintendo Game Boy with games cartridges. Credit: Geoff Kirby/Press Association Images

Ryan King, videogames expert and editor-in-chief of Videogames at Imagine Publishing said: "Despite its age, Tetris is still the best puzzle game ever made. Only Angry Birds has come close to its simple appeal and cultural impact.

"Who doesn't recognise that famous folky theme tune as soon as it kicks in? And most importantly, Tetris is still as fun now as it was 30 years ago - the sign of a truly great game."