10 Life Lessons That 'Tetris' Can Teach You
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."
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.
It Doesn't Stop Until You Die
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.
Keep Your Options Open
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.
Get Past Your Mistakes Quickly
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!"
Skinny People Are Tremendously Advantaged
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.
Too Much Tetris Can Make You Go Crazy
If you've ever played Tetris for several hours straight, like if you had a column you were putting off or something, you may have noticed something strange when you found yourself violently thrust out into the real world. Like a sudden urge to see everything around you as if they were Tetris pieces. Furniture, cars, buildings -- anything and everything is suddenly evaluated for its stackability.
You could easily fit a thousand more children into this day care.
This is called the Tetris effect, and it's totally a real thing that shows up in a number of other places. Any visual task with repetitive elements, really; mathematicians have often reported dreaming of numbers and equations.
But it shows up most often in video games. People walking around, disconcerted by the fact that they don't have a shotgun held directly in front of them, with no helpful ammunition counter in the corner of their vision. Or playing Tony Hawk for several hours and then evaluating every part of the world around you for its grindability. Or, after a long Grand Theft Auto session, having to mentally restrain yourself from stealing a taxi and ramping it into a bus.
To check its grindability, no doubt.
There Really Aren't 10 Things to Say About Tetris
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Tetris is really a pretty simple game. There aren't any more life lessons to learn about Tetris. This is a child's game about stacking blocks. There's nothing more to be learned here.
I should have done one about Jenga, whose moral contours philosophers are still exploring.
Why did I ever think I could come up with TEN life lessons from Tetris? I mean sure, 10 is a nice round number, and that's appealing to me a lot right now for some reason. Also, when people see a title like that, they think "There's no way to learn 10 things from Tetris! I've played Tetris and I don't know 10 things!" and then they trip over themselves to click on the link. It's a cheap way to get links, but it works.
Like shooting fish in a supermarket.
But 10 just doesn't feel realistic now. Maybe that's a life lesson? Not to overpromise things.
You know something? Fuck it. Everyone can go home early. I've gotta stop thinking about this stupid game so much.
Oh God Why Can't I Stop Thinking About Tetris?
EVERYTHING MUST BE STACKED AND ORDERED NEATLY. IT WILL PILE UP AND DOOM US ALL.
Oh shit. It's the Tetris effect. I've got Tetris Madness real bad.
YES. GOOD. NOW STACK THE CHILDREN. THE RUSSIAN FOLK MUSIC COMMANDS IT.
Oh man. I always knew this column would end with the state taking my belt and shoes from me, but I always kind of imagined there'd be more sirens and lamentations and machete wounds. But here we are. I've got Tetris Madness, and the only cure is there is no cure.
Wait! There are 10 columns in Tetris, right?
One, Two, Three, Four, Six, Four, Four, Eleven, Twelveteen, Ten!
That's why I need 10 entries! The Tetris Madness! If only I can come up with two more stupid, labored Tetris life lessons to squeeze into this column, I'll be done. The row will be complete!
Invest in Low-Fee Mutual Funds
OK. This ... is ... the thing ... Hmmm.
I guess if the blocks on the ground are the marketplace, and the blocks that are falling are investment vehicles, and a fee is like ... lag? Then, high fees will make it harder to Tetris your retirement portfolio to its fullest ... fiduciary-ness?
Websters actually defines "fiduciary-ness" as "?"
Yes. Good. Perfect. Invest in low-fee mutual funds, index funds, or ETFs, just as Tetris instructs, and indeed has always instructed you.
I'm gonna make it! So are you, reluctantly, unwillingly! On to #1!
Tetris Teaches You Everything You Need to Know About Sex
Tetris will, if you let it, take you by the hand on a tour of the mysteries of human sexuality.
Stay with me here.
Its very basic gameplay has as one of its goals an all too clear allusion to the physical act of lovemaking itself:
Also, group sex:
And so on:
So, in conclusion, Tetris, much like sex, is a way to "score" and get "points," and is certainly nothing to "be embarrassed about doing for 28 hours one spring weekend."
Is that it? Did I do it? Ten entries! I'm free!
Wait. What happens after you clear a line in Tetris?
It Doesn't Stop Until You Die
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.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and sometimes has to physically unplug the Internet if he wants to get anything done. Join him on Facebook or Twitter and waste more of his time, won't you?