A Life of Tetris

A few days ago I was playing a game of Tetris, all the while contemplating life. No matter what anyone says, Tetris is still a fun little game to waste away time with, and the basic premise remains simple yet fantastic. Brentalfloss might parade ahead with his misogynistic song about how it lacks any sort of learning curve or substance, and many youngsters might agree with him because it sounds cool to dismiss a game and casually insult people who play it, but when it comes down to it, Tetris is one of the most solid puzzle games out there.

It also has a valuable lesson about life hidden behind its block-shaped exterior.

No, really. I’m going there. I’m going to use Tetris as a metaphor for life now. Just try to stop me.

The basic premise of Tetris is a simple one. Geometric shapes (officially called Tetrimonoes, but who even knows that?) made out of 4 blocks fall from the top of the screen. You control each individual block as it comes down, trying to create a full horizontal lines of 10 blocks, which clears them. If you accidentally create a gap in a line and cover it up, you have to use your problem-solving skills to skillfully compensate for this by clearing any blocks above the empty space to make it accessible again. A lot of special online variants of Tetris play into this aspect with screen-modifying abilities that you’ll have to deal with.

But we’re talking regular Tetris right now. Blocks fall down, you align them, clear them, and move on. Endlessly. Originally, Tetris was a game based on endurance, and the longer you played, the faster the newer blocks would come down, making it harder to deal with any problematic situations left behind. And the more mistakes you made, the more complicated your game becomes as you have to deal with the current situation, as well as the direct new one of the newer blocks keep coming in.

It would all be fine and dandy if you’d always get the blocks you were hoping for. You just don’t. And life works that way too. You’re given tools in life, tools that you can use for later on. You’re given more tools at any given time than you will ever be able to use. Especially now with the internet being around, more and more tools are opening up to you. And most tools only have a limited amount of time before expiring, disappearing, or running out of use. You have to learn to not just plan ahead for one possible outcome, but make sure that whatever plan you have works for multiple possible outcomes.

More importantly, sometimes you do get what you were planning for, but things still don’t work out as you intended them to. That long shape can come in after it stops being useful, and you’re going to have to deal with. You might not have the time or space to, but you’re going to.

Eventually, if you play your cards right, things will work out. More or less. Things are often not as be-all-end-all as they appear to be. One screw-up does not lead to the end of the world. It doesn’t even lead to the end of anything, you just take a quick detour before getting back on track. Hopefully, you learned your lesson by then.

Don’t rely on the long line. Keep space for other blocks. Plan ahead.

That still doesn’t mean that if you get in a situation where the long line works, you shouldn’t go for it. Be open to things, all things. And take situations as they go. Just because something doesn’t always work doesn’t mean that it never works.

If you do fuck up several times in a row, know what’s causing it. Find out a way to get around it. Problem solving skills all boil down to one thing: finding out what is wrong and fixing it. And Tetris is a game all about fixing things. If you fuck up, you’re going to have to go back and fix it. Work your way down as fast as you can before it becomes too much. Because as the game speeds up, and as you get older, it’s going to get harder to come back to it. Small mistakes start becoming big things.

In the end though, no matter what you do, you will die. Whether or not the game was a win or a lose is all up to you. If you got what you wanted out of it, like a good high score, or just simply a good time, you’ve won. Keep in mind that you don’t need the higher score to have won the game. You don’t need to have impressed anyone with your achievements to have won. All you need to do is to have enjoyed it.

Because win or lose, the game will end all the same.


One thought on “A Life of Tetris

  1. Pingback: Fatigue and Sub-Tanks « Remy van Ruiten

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