The thoughts that come to us just before we go to sleep or just as we wake up vary between unusual and insightful, for me, these thoughts or queries usually dissipate over the coarse of the day, or night. On rare occasion they stay with me and I am consumed by them, the latest one is this; Is Tetris a Crafting Game?

Now on the surface the question seemed simple, surely it was just a matter of defining a craft game and testing to see if Tetris fit into the description as neatly as the shapes in the game fit into the gaps, but then further question arose. I know a great deal about crafts and crafting but how much do I really know abut Tetris, the truth is not very much and so I began my research.

In my opinion crafting is the process of of taking materials or objects and using a tool or method in order to create something new or different. This is of course a very simplistic definition but I feel is captures the essence of crafting. Now games, especially digital ones, add a new dynamics to crafting as they allow for the freedom of experimentation and mistakes and, in some cases, remove the economic, spacial and tool barriers players may face in real life. So using this definition as my starting point I began to break down Tetris to see if it fit.

Tetris was invented in by Alexey Pajitnov and first programmed by Vadim Gerasimov (Brzustowski, 1992). The game itself is focused around the arranging of Tetrominoes, these are shape which are made of four squares (Definitions.net, 2020). The game consists of a small range of Tetrominoes, each with their own names, that fall from the top towards, what I always imagined was, the ground.

(Brzustowski, 1992)

The player must arrange the shapes in order to create a seamless row with no gaps, or even multiple rows at a time. The player can move the shapes left or right, rotate them 90° and increase their falling speed.

This is an intricate and reflective game which requires you to plan ahead, you can usually see a preview of the next shape that will fall and in some versions of the game you can save shapes to be swapped with the falling shape later. Just as in crafting when decision have to be made early in the crafting process that look ahead, this could be about the collection, use or replenishment of materials, objects or even tools.

When you start exploring Tetris as a game, most people agree that while you advance in Tetris to new challenges as you win each level you never truly win the game as eventually the block will stack to the top and the game will end. But all good this come to an end and just like in crafting eventually you will reach the end of a project and although you can start again essentially you have started something new, even if it looks identical it is still not the same.

Another key feature of the game that I think relates to crafting is that the game itself has no story (Rouse, 2004). Why are the blocks falling, where do they come from and why do players need to stack in ordered rows? I believe that, just as in crafting, Tetris can take the form of any story players choose to prescribe to it or it can just be an enjoyable pastime where the result are the focus.

Additionally I would be remiss to not reflect upon the positive effect on the brain. Of course there are the classic enjoyment or Dopamine effect that engaging in or the success completion of an activity can provide, this effect can be attributed to both Tetris and crafting. Craft additional assist in cognitive capabilities but crafts are not alone in this category, computers, games and crafts have all been labelled as activities to keep the brain “young” (Laguipo, 2019). There is even a range of Tetris specific research surrounding not just its positive effects on the brain but also its ability to increase the brain’s efficiency.

So I think that, in its own way, Tetris is in fact a crafting game, it could even be likened to a digital patchwork that substitutes Tetrominoes for fabric pieces.

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Bibliography

[1] Brzustowski, J., 1992. Can You Win At TETRIS?. Canada: The University Of British Columbia.

[2] Definitions.net. 2020. What Does Tetromino Mean?. [online] Available at: <https://www.definitions.net/definition/Tetromino> [Accessed 29 October 2020].

[3] Rouse, R., 2004. Game Design: Theory And Practice. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

[4] Jensen, E., 2004. Arts With The Brain In Mind. Moorabbin, Vic.: Hawker Brownlow Education.

[5] Huotilainen, M., Rankanen, M., Groth, C., Seitamaa-hakkarainen, P. and Mäkelä, M., 2018. Why Our Brains Love Arts And Crafts. 1st ed. www.FormAkademisk.org, Vol.11 Nr.2, 2018, Art 1, 1–18.

[6] Laguipo, A., 2019. Computers, Games, Crafting Keep The Aging Brain Sharp. [online] News-Medical.net. Available at: <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190711/Computers-games-crafting-keep-the-aging-brain-sharp.aspx> [Accessed 29 October 2020].

[7] Newspatrolling.com. 2018. How Tetris Can Keep Your Brain Young?. [online] Available at: <http://www.newspatrolling.com/how-tetris-can-keep-your-brain-young/> [Accessed 29 October 2020].

[8] BioMed Central Limited, 2009. Is Tetris Good For The Brain?. [online] ScienceDaily. Available at: <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090901082851.htm> [Accessed 29 October 2020].

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Eclectically skilled indie games designer & researcher interested in crafting in games, budding curator & lingerie researcher {Neurodiverse — Dyslexic Team}

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