The story of Tetris begins in 1984 in the Soviet Union, where it was first conceived by a Soviet programmer Alexey Pajitnov. Pajitnov first thought of Tetris while employed at Moscow’s Academy of Science, and once created, it became the first-ever video game to be exported to the US from the USSR.
Once Tetris had been optimized for Nintendo Game Boy, it quickly reached millions of people and made them fans. The game certainly has its downsides, mostly its addictive nature that was even noted by Pajitnov’s boss during its creation. As it turns out, he noted how the game’s emotional dynamics affected him severely; he even destroyed all disk copies of Tetris he could find.
Despite the downsides, Tetris’ journey to success and fame could not be foiled. The game has got us all hooked. It’s easy to talk about the downsides of entertainment mediums, especially video games, as they tend to gather a lot of notoriety for being addictive, distracting, and non-productive. We rarely consider that these activities can have positive effects on us and that some can even prove more beneficial than they are harmful.
Dozens of studies have been done on Tetris and its effect on the human brain, and the combined results have demonstrated a dozen notable benefits that we will explore further below:
1. Substance Abuse Management
A group of scientists got together to examine how playing Tetris would influence the test participants’ other cravings. It entailed letting participants play the game several times a day for about a week and inquiring about their cravings for other stimuli throughout the study.
The study showed that playing Tetris for three minutes a day decreased cravings for other substances, such as alcohol, caffeine, etc., by thirteen-point-nine percent (approximately one-fifth) for a week. This is likely because the game heavily engages our visual and spatial brain systems, both of which are used while indulging in a craving fantasy, and keep them long enough to distract us from other cravings.
2. Anxiety Management
If you have anxiety, you will find that Tetris can be pretty helpful in this regard. It has a simple structure, a clear set of expectations, and simultaneously engages your mind and hands. This can help bring your focus away from other things and get you immersed in the game. At the same time, rapid and calculated hand movements can provide an easy and healthy outlet for anxious feelings bringing you into somewhat of a meditative state that can be quite soothing and level you out.
3. Trauma Management
Another research done by Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry suggested that Tetris can help healthcare workers deal with traumatic scenes they confront almost daily. The study provided participants with a daily reminder to play Tetris while keeping track of their anxiety symptoms. Participants were comprised of both patients and medics, and those who were able to play Tetris for twelve to thirteen minutes a day demonstrated fewer trauma-related memories.
Playing Tetris is highly mentally engaging, and it helped participants take their minds off their present situation at a critical time.
4. Brain Development
Researches from The Mind Research Network used brain imaging to examine how Tetris would affect the actual structure of the brain. They hypothesized it might actually help increase the gray matter. They had twenty-six participants play Tetris every day for three months. They employed both structural and functional MRI scans before and after the three months.
The study showed that the areas involved in planning complex, coordinated moves, the area responsible for multi-sensory integration, and areas associated with critical thinking, reasoning, and language processing have grown thicker. Playing Tetris can literally and functionally expand your brain.
5. Organizational Skills
Tetris is all about placing objects in the most efficient way possible. It teaches us how individual pieces fit together and how to plan around that to the best of our ability based on the information we have at a given moment.
Tetris game grid and object shapes are pretty simple and limited, and the real world is much more complex than that, but playing the game trains your brain to think in such a way as to recognize individual elements of an item (it doesn’t have to be a physical one), understand relationships between them, and decide how to utilize them to your advantage.
6. Finer Motor Skills
Tetris involves stacking blocks onto each other within a time limit that decreases as the game progresses. To continue doing so successfully, you need excellent eye-hand coordination, dexterity, and physical impulse control.
Playing Tetris helps train your hands to quickly and accurately follow the instructions from your brain, it increases their flexibility and agility, and it trains your brain to hold firmer control of your movements. Each of your movements needs to be quick, purposeful, and accurate. Improving your fine motor skills in this way can be widely useful in life as many jobs, hobbies, and activities are heavily dependent on them.
7. Cognitive Skills
Tetris engages in several cognitive skills such as memory, matching, and pattern recognition. It also promotes problem-solving, decision-making, impulse control, etc. It’s a simple game that engages and improves a complex web of thinking patterns all at once.
Playing Tetris fires up several different areas of your brain and forces them to focus on a ‘single’ thing, the game of Tetris, thus promoting their adequate application while simultaneously nourishing their interconnections. In other words, as you stack your Tetris blocks as efficiently as possible within a single field, your brain does the same thing with its own information storage
8. Strategic Skills
Strategic thinking is a complex set of skills, and these too can be trained while playing Tetris. The game will teach you how to break a system down to its fundamental elements, examine how they affect each other, and make your decisions based on that. You will learn how to examine your current situation and conceptualize the following domino effect of your next move based on the information you have.
Playing Tetris can teach you how to observe, categorize what you have observed, contextualize that information, and make the appropriate associations.
9. Attention Span
Tetris is a highly involved and immersive game. Once you pick it up, you can sit in a single spot and play for hours. While this is not something we would recommend if you have other, more important things to attend to, it can be a great solution for those who suffer from a deficient attention span.
Tetris can quickly and easily engage almost anyone, and soon they will find that time has passed rather quickly without them batting an eye. This will inspire their confidence and patience to dedicate more of their attention to other things as well.
10. Confidence Boost
Human brains love solving problems which is why they have an in-built reward system that releases dopamine when problem-solving conditions are met. Each time you successfully clear a line, you get a little bit of this temporary boost. With this in mind, Tetris can have a long-term positive effect in this regard as well, as the more you play and the better you get at the game, the greater sense of accomplishment you’ll have, which can help improve your overall confidence.
11. Brain Health
Studies have shown that puzzle games like Tetris, crosswords, Sudoku, etc., promote and nourish brain health. They exercise vital functions, agility, and long-term information storage, all of which are essential for lowering the risk of mental decline. It’s also been shown that people who are already suffering from conditions like dementia experience slight temporary improvements when allowed to engage in puzzle games.
12. Universal Benefits
Tetris is a cheap, accessible, low-entry game that most of us can get our hands-on. Its numerous benefits can help a wide range of people: Children, students, people of all ages and with various mental conditions, who can improve or nourish their mental health.
Simple structure, accessibility, and replay value have made Tetris a well-known and widely-liked game of several generations. Like any other game ever made, it got its fair share of criticism and scrutiny for potentially harmful effects. Most of such commentary is usually made by parents worried that their children are engaging in something they don’t fully understand.
While detractors aren’t entirely wrong in that it can be addictive, the notion that Tetris is just a waste of time has been proven false by numerous studies that have demonstrated Tetris has some considerate benefits for those who engage in it on a semi-regular basis.