On this day in 1984, Tetris was first released. I’ve long been a major critic of video games. This is because they mostly suck. I blame it on Doom. It wasn’t the first first-person shooter game by a long shot. But it was the one that caused the game development business to go haywire. It was no longer necessary to do anything new. It was all just minor changes. Bored running around abandoned buildings shooting people? Try running around an abandoned ship shooting people! Or Nazis! Or Nazi Zombies! I’ll admit that I don’t stay up with it, but every time I revisit the subject, I find that there really is nothing new going on.
Now that’s not to say there is nothing new going on in the game development community. People continue to be creative. It is just that first-person shooter games are the bedrock of the industry. That’s because humans — especially men — are really horrible. Apparently, we continue to have wars because men really love them — at least in the abstract. Regardless, Tetris has always stood out to me as showing how much one can do with almost nothing. Remember: it came out years after more complex games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Q*Bert. It also came out a decade after the prototype for first-person shooter games, Maze War.
The point is that what interests us is not complexity. Certain stories require complexity to tell. It depends upon the story. But making Tetris three-dimensional did not improve it. I’m sure that some people are out there using the tools of first-person shooter games to do interesting things. But these are not the games people are lining up at game stores to buy.
Happy anniversary Tetris!