Invented by Alexey Pajitnov, an employee of the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR, the game was released in Russia and began making its way through the rest of the Soviet Union. By 1986, the game was available on PCs in the US and by 1988 Tetris was on numerous video game consoles made by companies who claimed they had proprietary rights. Thanks to shady business dealings inside and outside the USSR during the Cold War era, the legal saga of Tetris is one of the most fascinating in history and a full account can be found at AtariHQ.com.
The early versions of the game had Russian themes and it was billed as the first game from inside the Soviet Union. However, even if you didn’t know the game’s origins, that Russian music now makes so much more sense. Yet – technical feasibility aside – it is a good thing this game came out in the 1980s instead of the 1950s. Can you imagine people naming names from secret Tetris parties during the era of McCarthyism?
In actuality, Tetris is the only Cold War-era piece of entertainment from the Soviet Union that American audiences truly embraced. Part of the reason for that is because countless Soviet artists had their creativity stymied by the state, but the greater reason is the universal appeal for this wonderful little game. No matter your nationality, religious views or personal history, you can waste hours puzzling and bonding over its simplistic difficulties.
Note: If you have any iPhone, downloading Tetris is a great way to spend 99 cents.