The game starts with a single block falling from the sky. With only a micro movement the tip of your finger maneuvers it safely down. Another block falls and you rotate and move it a little to the left. Here comes one more and you react to lock it together with the others. As the pieces keep coming your eyes, brain and index finger team up, playing as hard as they can to make perfect lines and keep the top of the screen at bay. After a couple of games for some reason you feel a little more motivated. You get in the shower and put on pants. You walk into work. You keep going.
Tetris is the classic 80’s puzzle game that involves stacking multi-colored, differently shaped blocks into lines and walls. The goal is to fit the falling blocks together as tightly as possible, forming lines and larger groups of lines (aka Tetris’s). Gap free lines or Tetris’s disappear, create more space and help the player to “level-up”. As the game progresses the pieces drop faster and faster until it almost seems like they are trying to forcibly smash themselves on the bottom of the screen. The game is over when the wall of imperfect lines touches the top of the screen (or the player beats the top level).
Apparently I'm not the only one that has discovered the power of Tetris. Researchers looking for innovative ways to treat post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) hypothesized that playing a visually and spatially demanding video game after a trauma might decrease the incidents of flashbacks. This study found that playing Tetris right after a traumatic experience (in this case watching a scary movie) reduced the incidents of flashbacks, as compared to playing trivia or no intervention all. It's speculated that the visual and mental demands of Tetris push out the brains ability to store and recall traumatic images.
A study of adolescent girls showed that Tetris is a great workout for your brain. The teens who played the game 30 minutes a day for 3 months increased the thickness of their cortexes (grey matter) and improved their brain efficiently, as compared to a control group. Another study demonstrated that playing Tetris for just 3 minutes has the power to reduce cravings for drugs, food and sex by up to 70%. Researchers speculate that the cognitive load Tetris places on the brain makes it difficult to imagine the object of desire in detail which reduces the craving.
Tetris gets us going by asking for just the smallest of movements and then gently drawing us into a game-full meditation that gets us out of our own heads for just long enough for a positive shift to happen. If you can't think of a reason to get out of bed give Tetris a try. All those tiny little blocks can add up to significant change.
Other ways to improve your life with Tetris:
Better special relations: Playing Tetris will help you to more efficiently pack a bag, load up your trunk or organize any space.
Build communications skills with doubles Tetris: alternate pieces with a friend or partner. You will learn a lot about each other very quickly.
Workout your heart and brain: Try playing Tetris while you ride the stationary bike. Time will fly by and your workout will be over before you know it.
Become a better loser: If you’re a perfectionist or have any anxiety around failing (and who doesn’t) playing Tetris till the bitter end can help you get used to that feeling. Feel it a little, think about how you play better next time and then play again. That wasn't so bad was it?