Great Men You’ve Never Heard Of: Alexey Pajitnov, Creator of Tetris

You’ve been playing the game he created ever since your first Game Boy, but do know anything about the man who invented Tetris, one of the greatest and most widespread games of all time?

In today’s world, video games are everywhere and are made up of countless genres. If you like first person shooters take a stab at Left 4 Dead. If survival/suspense is more your cup of tea, check out Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. For adventure games, you can’t beat Beyond Good and Evil. Some games are just so unique that they can not be neatly put into a category, a la Killer 7.

For those of you who are not well versed in video games, you might not recognize all of the titles. However, I wholeheartedly recommend every single one of them. Another title that I wholly recommend happens to be a title that I can almost guarantee that you have not only heard of, but have probably played before. I am of course talking about the ever classic, Те́трис. The name is a combination of tetra, from the Greek meaning four, and tennis, the creator’s favorite sport. For those of us that are not as fluent in Russian as we would like to be, in English it is known as the classic game of Tetris. Games like this do not just fall down from the sky, (pun totally intended) they have to be lovingly crafted by a creator.

He was born Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov in 1956 in the USSR. While working as a computer engineer for the Computer Center at the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Alexey, with the help of Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov, created Tetris on June 16, 1984. It became a sensation throughout the Soviet bloc. In 1986, it arrived in the states. It’s popularity took off largely to the inclusion of Tetris with Nintendo’s new hand held console, Gameboy. In 1989, Pajitnov created a sequel to Tetris, Welltris. This top down 3D Tetris-like game received luke-warm reviews. Even though Welltris was a fail, Tetris was still spreading like wild fire. Needless to say Pajitnov must have made boat loads of money, right?

Sadly, due to the fact that he was employed by the Soviet government at the time, Pajitnov did not receive any royalties from the popularity of Tetris. In 1991, Alexey moved to the United States and in 1996 founded the Tetris Company with friend Henk Rogers, after the rights to the game were returned to him. Gameplay and rules were soon standardized in order to provide uniformity throughout the Tetris franchise. Among Pajitnov’s recent work in the puzzle game Hexic, on both Windows and the Xbox 360.

Earlier this year, Tetris celebrated it’s 25th anniversary. Tetris is played in more than 50 countries and has been translated into more than 50 languages. Tetris has been released on more than 30 platforms. Over 125 million Tetris products have been sold. Tetris is played over 1 million times a day via Tetris Friends Online Games, the official online game destination for North America and Europe. Tetris is commonly called “the greatest video game of all time.”

So the next time you are at the pub, in the cafeteria, or even by yourself, call for some quiet, and raise a glass of your preferred beverage to Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of one of, if not the most, popular and addictive video games of all time.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexey_Pajitnov
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetris
http://www.tetris.com/about-tetris/by-the-numbers/index.aspx
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3499/catching_up_casually_a_chat_with_.php

Andy calls Boston home. He spends his working days with kids and his evenings on the town. Fun fact: he has a very hardcore Boston accent.