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Teen Defeats Tetris

Thirteen-year-old Willis Gibson is the first person ever to beat the classic video game Tetris.
A young teen poses in front of a video game system and holds Tetris accessories in his arms.

David “aGameScout” Macdonald (YouTube: @aGameScout”)

Thirteen-year-old Willis Gibson, seen here after coming in third at the 2023 Classic Tetris World Championship, is the first person who ever made it to the end of the game.

Tetris is one of those video games that’s always been impossible to beat—until now. Thirteen-year-old Willis Gibson recently became the first person to reach what’s basically the end of a game of Tetris.

There’s no actual end to Tetris. The game involves manipulating shapes created from seven different configurations of four blocks so that they complete rows in a grid on screen. Each row disappears when it’s completed. If a player doesn’t complete enough rows, the blocks reach the top of the screen, and the game is over. The blocks fall faster and faster until the player can’t keep up. When developers designed Tetris, they figured it would beat everyone. The game isn’t made to be defeated.

A row of men and teens sit in front of screens holding game controllers and playing Tetris.

David “aGameScout” Macdonald (YouTube: @aGameScout”)

Gibson is a seasoned Tetris competitor. Despite reaching the end of Tetris, he’ll continue to take part in competitions. 

But experienced Tetris players know what happens when the game reaches its limits—a “kill screen” appears. In the past, only artificial intelligence has been able to reach that screen.

“When you do make it that far, the game can’t handle it, and it just crashes,” Gibson told NBC News. 

That’s what happened to Gibson. The Oklahoma teen, who has been playing Tetris since he was 11 and participates in Tetris tournaments, was playing the original Nintendo version of the game at home when he reached the kill screen. Gibson had advanced far enough that the software had stopped registering increases to his score—which was stuck at 999,999.

The entire game was recorded on video, including the dramatic conclusion. 

“Please, crash!” Gibson muttered to himself, just before the kill screen appeared. When the game stopped, he gasped and grasped his head in both hands, knowing what he had accomplished.

Even though he beat Tetris, Gibson’s not ready to walk away just yet. He told NBC News that he loves to participate in tournaments and plans to keep doing so.

Did You Know?

Tetris was created in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov of the Soviet Union (now Russia). Pajitnov, seen in the photo below, said he designed the game for fun. It has since inspired a movie, a board game, and millions of gamers worldwide.

A man poses in front of a 1980s computer as digital Tetris shapes fall around him.

Wojtek Laski—Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Damian Yerrick; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

How Gaming Began

One of the first video games ever was called Tennis for Two. In the game, two people used separate handheld controllers to hit a ball back and forth.

Tennis for Two was developed in 1958, a time when computers existed but tablets, smartphones, home computers, and home consoles did not. Tennis for Two was demonstrated at an exhibition to show how computers could be useful to society. It played on an analog computer that didn’t have a screen. Gameplay was shown on a device called an oscilloscope.

Here’s Tennis for Two in action.

Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

The World of Gaming

Split screen of two teens along with usernames Blue Scuti and Mylesthegreat.

Check out the video to see Willis Gibson, who competes under the name Blue Scuti, go head to head with Myles the Great at a Classic Tetris Regional Tournament in December 2023.

You can learn more about video games, from coin-operated arcade machines to online multiplayer matchups, at Britannica!

WORD OF THE DAY

simulation

PART OF SPEECH:
noun
Definition:

: something that is made to look, feel, or behave like something else especially so that it can be studied or used to train people

Definitions provided by
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Word Search

Instructions: Some classic video game titles and characters are hidden in this puzzle. See if you can find them.

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