Like most people who get into writing comedy, I'm not very good at planning out my life. Like, for example, this past weekend, instead of enjoying the outdoors, or spending time with my family, or bettering myself in any way, I instead chose to play Tetris for 28 consecutive hours, up to and well past the point where I got the "video game sweats."
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Much less impressive than exercise sweat, and yet somehow much stinkier.
Along with ruining the chair I was sitting on, this also basically ruined the time I'd normally use preparing this column. With no other option but to flex the mighty block-stacking machine my brain had become, I realized (and slightly fabricated the fact) that there are certain life lessons that Tetris teaches like no other game.
So join me, won't you, on what will no doubt be an entertaining exercise in a barely rationalized waste of time.
That's pretty harsh, but it is so obviously the most important lesson that can be learned about Tetris that it deserves to be mentioned first. When you clear a line, it disappears, leaving you room to clear another. And another. The pieces never stop coming. They even get faster, which is I think a metaphor for how our reactions slow down with age.
"David? It's Barry, your father. Hi. A huge L fell on the house today and now your mother won't stop crying. I tried rebooting it, but that didn't work. I think it might be a virus."
In Tetris, the cruelty of life is laid bare. Work or die. Even worse, and especially familiar to anyone who's been the most competent person in their workplace, any success you achieve will immediately be rewarded with more work.
Thankfully this isn't usually accompanied by never-ending 8-bit renditions of Russian folk songs.
Although much of Tetris is reactionary, where you're forced to put a piece in the only place it works, there are moments where you do have enough freedom to build up certain shapes on the ground. Penises, often, yes ...
... but also shapes that hold certain advantages. Everyone knows that a board like this ...
... is good for setting up a Tetris (clearing four lines at once by dropping a long straight piece down the gap). But did you know that a shape like this ...
... is even more flexible? This shape can deliver Tetrises as before, but can also easily accommodate L shapes and S shapes and even that awful, hate-filled square. The lesson is clear: In life, as in Tetris, don't set yourself up to win only if you get a single, perfect piece. Set yourself up to win if the universe hurls you crappy, mediocre pieces.
This successful man in a suit grew up poor, took care of his younger siblings when his parents died, and once got nothing but Z shapes and squares for an entire year.
Sometimes, in the heat of a Tetris game, you'll make a mistake.
Man. That was just ... That was NEVER going to work.
At higher levels this is enough to be fatal, but in many cases it's entirely recoverable, assuming you don't freak the fuck out. Don't blame the stupid piece, or the controls, or anyone else but yourself. Own your mistake, and deal with it. Even if it's nothing more than drawing another penis over your mistake, you're the only one capable of drawing that penis.
Own that penis.
Many of the most recent versions of Tetris allow the player to save a piece in a buffer, to be brought out again when it will be more useful.
This is almost always used by players to save the valuable straight line pieces for when they have a Tetris ready to complete. In competitive versions of Tetris, it's often worth saving up to get two Tetrises in a row because of how attacks work, but even in the single player game, this is a good practice. Really, it's a metaphor for saving for a rainy day. It's practically a Bible story, really.
"And He shall bestow Straight Lines on those who do not lay with animals!"
Check out this slender, sexy-ass Tetris piece.
Heeeeey girl. I wanna see you get loooow.
Hot, right? It's OK to be attracted to it, whether you're a man or woman. We're all sexual beings here. So now let's look at this perfectly normal Tetris piece.
Heeeeey boy. Could you ... find a flat place to lie down on that's out of the way? Perfect! Oh, you're standing? I'm so sorry.
Now yes, that's a little cruel, and I'm sure the square is probably really funny. But you know exactly which piece you prefer showing up in your game. It's a pattern that holds in real life: Tall, skinny people are always getting promotions and movie roles and every other advantage in life.
I guess they're a little more prone to falling down narrow shafts.