In this ongoing look at significant moments in the history of video game design, we have already taken a look at Nintendo’s Kid Icarus, Electronic Arts’ Mirror’s Edge, Raven Software’s Soldier of Fortune 2 and several others. The goal of this series is to go beyond simple gaming magazines and iPhone App Reviews, and take a closer look at what defines memorability and quality in game design. In this twenty-fifth part of the series we will examine some more of those classic moments where video game designers undoubtedly got it right and delivered a memorable, enduring and progressive gaming experience.
Tetris (Multiple): The tale of Tetris is one of the most storied in videogame history. Originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pazhitnov in 1984, the game has since been released, in some shape or form, on just about every video game console and handheld device known to man. Sales figures are hard to determine with any sense of accuracy, but most feel comfortable estimating that there have been nearly a quarter of a billion copies of Tetris sold around the world, with over one hundred million of those sales being strictly to cell phones. While many gamers were introduced to Tetris through the PC or Mac, most of today’s gamers had their first Tetris experience on the Nintendo Entertainment System, or on the incredibly successful Nintendo Game Boy version, which allowed for head-to-head two player games through the use of an optional connector cable.
Throughout the years since its creation, numerous lawsuits have been filed for the purposes of determining exactly who has exclusive publishing rights to the original game. Unlawful versions have been pulled from shelves and millions of dollars have changed hands, all over this simply named game developed by a single Soviet programmer. In addition, when referring to a list of the greatest video games of all times, Tetris is nearly always found at or near the top. What is it about this simple game that has made it the stuff of video game legend?
Anyone who has played Tetris (if you have NOT played Tetris, stop reading this article and go play it!) knows exactly why the game has seen such amazing success: it’s easy yet incredibly challenging, and it’s flat out fun. A game of Tetris can be a simple way to fill time while you wait to be called in a doctor’s office, or can easily become the focus of an all night gaming session as you struggle to beat your top score. Yet, somehow all of this fun is extracted from a puzzle game which consists only of six puzzle pieces. The beauty of Tetris is that it does not surprise the player or try to trick them, nor does it make any cultural or language based demands; it simply presents an empty game board and challenges the player to keep it empty. For being a game that players of all ages, backgrounds and regions of the world can instantly pick up and begin having fun with, Tetris will always be one of the greatest video games the world has ever known.
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