Decades later, ‘Tetris’ locked in as a classic

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

By Tammy Madden
Guest contributor

Editor’s Note: In celebration of the parents coming into town for homecoming, our “Great Video Game” guest writer this week is none other than the mother of Joshua Madden, the Lariat’s Arts & Entertainment editor.

My introduction to “Tetris” happened on Christmas of 1988. My young nephew received a gaming system “from Santa” that year and I watched him play, wondering what all the excitement was over video games.

As Christmas Day wore on, I found myself becoming intrigued by “Tetris.” After my nephew went to bed, I asked my sister-in-law if I could try a couple of games, which turned into an almost-all-night session rivaling a night-before-finals study session reminiscent of my college days.

I found “Tetris” to be the perfect game for those like me who like order, boundaries and quiet contemplation. There were no violent actions, no loud battle noise and no rapid-fire gunshots, nor were there character voices adding commentary throughout the game. Best of all, it was a one-person game.

Plus, the graphics and skill level required were far superior to my previous experience with home video games from the ’70s, namely, “Pong.”

When our family Christmas celebration was over and we packed up to return to our homes, I felt wistful that I had to part with “Tetris.”

As a 25 year-old with a husband, home and banking career, I knew an addiction to “Tetris” wouldn’t be a good idea, so I quickly dismissed the fleeting desire to purchase my own gaming system.

O.K., it was really my husband who quickly overruled my request to stop at a department store on the way home so we could purchase the game.

Although I didn’t play “Tetris” again for a while, for a few weeks I did find myself looking at patterns in the floor tiles in office buildings, airports and malls and even in public bathrooms.

Fifteen years later, my son, himself an avid gamer, bought me a handheld system with a “Tetris” cartridge. I was not only reunited with my beloved “Tetris” but I could now take it with me everywhere.

For several weeks, I played “Tetris” while waiting on my kids at sporting practices, during music lessons, in the carpool line and on family road trips. Eventually, when it got in the way of getting dinner on the table for my family and also became a competitor to my reading time, I put my “Tetris” game (or addiction) in a bottom drawer and moved on with my life.

There has, however, been a residual side effect to my “Tetris” mindset. Just a couple of weeks ago while listening to a public speaker, I found myself zeroing in on the background behind the man. The screen had shaded square blocks and I realized I was focusing on “Tetris” shapes and how I could fit them together to fill in sections. It’s been 20-some years since I played my first game of “Tetris,” but that thrill of getting all the pieces to fit together in just the right way still brings me satisfaction. That’s what makes “Tetris” a classic game that will always have loyal fans.

Do you know of a video game you consider great? Send us your submissions for our “Great Video Game” section at If you convince us, you might just see your submission here.