13-year-old boy “beats” the video game Tetris for the first time in 40 years

Willis Gibson, a 13-year-old boy from Oklahoma, became the first player to overcome the limits of Tetris in the original Nintendo version , bringing the game to freezing point. His feat, recorded and shared on YouTube, shows the young prodigy stunned and with numb fingers after achieving an astonishing score of “999999”.

Tetris: a game that challenges boundaries

Tetris, a game invented by Soviet software engineer Alexey Pajitnov and launched on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989, is renowned for its simplicity and challenging character. Tetris quickly became one of the most influential and popular video games of all time. Originally published by several companies amid disputes over ownership rights in the 1980s, the game became part of Nintendo's portfolio before Pajitnov reacquired the rights in 1996 and founded the Tetris Company with Henk Rogers , dedicated to license management. The simplicity of its rules and the addictive nature of the game have contributed to making it a timeless classic in the gaming landscape, evidenced by over 202 million copies sold by 2011, of which approximately 70 million physical units and 132 million downloads of versions for mobile devices.

Tetris gameplay is a model of elegance in video game design. Players strive to complete horizontal lines by manipulating pieces of different shapes, known as tetrominoes, which fall onto the playing field . The completed lines disappear, allowing the player to earn points and use the freed space to place more pieces. The game ends when the uneliminated lines reach the top of the playing field, with the player's aim to postpone this outcome for as long as possible to maximize the score.

In the multiplayer versions, players compete to last longer than their opponents, sometimes inflicting penalties on their opponents by completing a significant number of lines. Some variations of Tetris introduce alternative rules, such as three-dimensional displays or systems for reserving pieces. In addition to its popularity as a game, Tetris has influenced various realms of popular culture, from architecture to music, and has even spurred research studies into its impact on the human brain, particularly the Tetris effect that occurs after gaming sessions.

Technique beyond survival

Tetris
Credits: David Macdonald

Willis, who has been playing Tetris competitively since 2021 under the nickname “Blue Scuti,” took the game to a new level by overcoming the game's “kill screen” – a point where the game becomes unplayable due to limitations in its coding.

Willis' strategy, as David Macdonald, another competitive Tetris player, explains, as reported by the New York Times, goes beyond simply surviving the game. Top players have adopted the “rolling technique,” ​​a method of rapid typing that uses multiple fingers instead of one or two, changing what's possible in competitive Tetris . This innovation paved the way for new challenges and achievements in the world of Tetris.

Innovation and determination

Willis' dedication to gaming showed in his equipment: His mother, Karin Cox, purchased a RetroN console and an old cathode ray tube television from a pawn shop to help him get started. Willis plays Tetris about 20 hours a week, balancing his passion with other activities. His feat not only set a new standard in Tetris gameplay, but also opened up new frontiers for Tetris players to explore, challenging the boundaries of what was thought to be possible in a game that has spanned generations.

The article 13-year-old boy “beats” the video game Tetris for the first time in 40 years was written on: Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .