Tetris: The Games People Play (Review)

August 31, 2019

 

TETRIS: THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

 

Writer/Artist: Box Brown

Publisher: First Second

 

“There’s a graphic novel about Tetris?” I gasped when I saw the spine of Box Brown’s TETRIS: THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY from the shelves of my comic book store. This classic game has a special place in my heart and I couldn’t wait to check out this story. 

 

Box Brown is an Ignatz Award-winning cartoonist, illustrator and comic publisher from Philadelphia. He teamed up with First Second to inform people on the origins of Tetris and all the marketing steps necessary to make it as popular as it still is to this day. 

 

The cover pops with bright yellow blocks that are shaded with a bright blue. In the middle we see an illustration of the creator Alexey Pajitnov in the same yellow and blue with some pink accents. Striking and simple cover art that is continued in the book. The only colors used to tell this story are yellow, black and white. Even though the color palette is very simple, it creates a unique experience of storytelling and is not boring whatsoever. 

 

 

 

We first of all get introduced to Alexey Pajitnov and Vladimir Pokhilko, two computer scientists and friends from Moscow who are having a deep conversation at night. “Games aren’t just an escape, not there just to keep us busy during idle hours. Puzzles and games reveal a lot about psychology and human behavior! They imitate the mind! They inform life!!” With this fantastic quote we get launched into Alexey wandering and thinking about people and the games they’ve been playing throughout history. From him pondering over this, we flow into some cool information about the beginnings of Nintendo. We see how they go from creating toys like an electronic love tester to realizing the rise in popularity of arcade games and creating Donkey Kong. While Nintendo was busy taking over the world video game market in 1985, we get back in touch with 

 

Alexey who is consumed by the idea of creating his own puzzle game, based on the pentomino game. After he created a working prototype, he shared it with his colleagues and found he had unlocked something in people to make them keep playing the game continuously with a “just one more game” after they lost. 

 

From the computer science center in Moscow Tetris grew as a viral hit, escaping the U.S.S.D.R., taking over the world. This type of fame does not come naturally and is accompanied with money issues, difficult negotiations, rivallery, debates, euphoria and disappointments. There is even a terrible dark side to the popularity of Tetris, that nobody saw coming. 

 

This fun little book has become one of the most interesting ones in my bookcase. It is jam-packed with facts about the videogame industry, with Tetris as its main character. Not only did I learn more about what it takes for a game to become popular with the masses, I learned more about the effect that hobbies have on people. The psychology behind the satisfaction of playing and the need to play just one more game. Box Brown is an amazing storyteller who can make a LOT of facts become one cohesive quick read with great emotional and comedic notes. An amazing book to buy for yourself or as a gift to a friend who enjoys having a hobby. 

 

 

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