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The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World
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The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  268 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
The definitive story of a game so great, even the Cold War couldn't stop it

Tetris is perhaps the most instantly recognizable, popular video game ever made. But how did an obscure Soviet programmer, working on frail, antiquated computers, create a product which has now earned nearly 1 billion in sales? How did a makeshift game turn into a worldwide sensation, which has been
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by PublicAffairs
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Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews
My grandfather once boasted to me that back in the day children could fill a whole afternoon of fun and frolicking using only two bricks. The day that I have grandchildren, I'll be vaunting I needed only eight to occupy myself during an entire Christmas holiday. The seven bricks provided by Tetris, and the grey brick necessary to play it (also known as a Game Boy) were enough to keep me entertained.

I'll admit it wasn't a love story straight from the start. I didn't actually own a Game Boy as a
Fábio de Carvalho
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
There are three interesting things about Tetris: its rights were temporarily owned by the USSR government, it was ported and sold around the world before the USSR actually gave anyone the rights to do so and Atari lost the rights to distribute it in courts and thus had to absorb huge deficits for all the produced games and printed boxes they had prepared in advance.

I just told you the three interesting things about Tetris in a single sentence. Dan Ackerman did so in 275 pages.
Kressel Housman
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Remember Tetris, the most popular video game of the nineties? Well, it turns out to have a pretty interesting back story that will take you behind the Iron Curtain and into the highest echelons of the gaming industry. The book is similar in style to Michael Lewis’ in that it’s a David and Goliath story focusing on the people, in this case rogue game designers daring to challenge both Soviet authority and some major corporate monoliths. The wheeling and dealing over the rights and sublicenses did ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm still shocked that I was able to whip right through this despite it being chock full of stuff I don't usually enjoy (e.g. business, or even worse, business history!). But if I have to speculate on how I made it through 200+ pages license-wrangling, I'd say it had to do with the author's ability to make me care about the people involved. For example, as an American, I was desperate for Alexey Pajitnov to get reap some of the financial reward for creating such an awesome game. And I was really ...more
Evan Shields
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good book about the complex history of the video game Tetris. Before reading this book I had no idea that Tetris was invented in the Soviet Union during the cold war and that the rights to the game were so contested back then. I enjoyed how this book included childhood stories about Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov because it made the book less dry and more like a fiction book, which made me want to continue reading, because at times, this book could be a little boring and some parts seemed to ...more
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tetris: the colours are bright, the music is instantly recognizable and the game is intensely addictive.

In case you’re one of the few people who’s never played the video game, red, green, yellow, blue and orange blocks in different configurations fall from the top of the screen to the tune of faux-folksy Russian music.

The blocks keep coming and coming and coming, and your job is to create solid lines from these seemingly-random shapes. Eventually, they start falling so fast you can’t keep up, an
David Dinaburg
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
In cases where the historical record is unclear, or when my interviews conflicted with previously published accounts, I’ve attempted to recount the most likely version of what happened, based on research and my own conversations with many of the primary participants. A certain amount of historical interpolation was required to offer a clear narrative understanding, including into the thought processes and motivations of those involved.
“Historical interpolation”; As in, I made stuff up and this d
Margaret Sankey
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Good tech history, intertwining the development of video games, consoles games (and the GameBoy) with the decline of the Soviet Union and the bizarre bureaucratic machinations of the Russian Academy of Science and the state's technology and business negotiating arm. As multiple agents descended on Moscow, contracts in hand and lawyers in tow, the game itself, which had been passed hand to hand through Soviet to Hungarian computer programmers, was already being released in the West as a Cold War ...more
Nate Morse
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent story of how the game Tetris came from humble Russian roots to spread across the world as one of the most popular games in video game history. I learned a lot about the video game industry of the early 80's and how software was developed for the many versions of computers that were available at the time. I think this is probably one of the few books that could make contract negotiations over international IP rights interesting.

Very easy to read, I found myself staying up way too late
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
low 3, it was kind of dry, and filled with long bits of buisness dealings that were super boring to me.
the actual conception of the game, and why it appealed to people, and the physiological effect it has is interesting, BUT the whole book could've been 50 pages and had a better effect than 300.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The Tetris Effect by Dan Ackerman is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-August.

This book is made up of brief biographies of Tetris' creator and its UK & US investors, Tetris' therapeutic psychological effect, being sold to Nintendo, as well as its design, success, and geometric perfection (being based on the shape of pentomino, though it's more of a tetramino).
Oct 08, 2016 rated it liked it
If only the whole book were like the "Bonus Level Chapters."
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
More of a book about the rights of Tetris than the creation of the game, this book did have a lot of interesting bits. Unfortunately, they were sandwiched between bad writing and pure supposition about the dialogue and thoughts of the principals in this short book.

Put into an even smaller nutshell, this is an urban legend version of the Tetris story. A few chapters about the Tetris Effect (see Wired magazine article) and some studies on PTSD recovery using Tetris were some of the most interestin
Sotolf Flasskjegg
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 *

I really liked how Ackerman managed to make all the people likeable, and it was quite tense for the subject matter that it had. I did enjoy it quite a lot, but some of the "Extra stages" were quite dull, and stood out a bit.

The lower stars did probably have more to do my expectations rather than real shortcomings of the book, I was hoping for a bit on the more modern life that tetris also has gotten. (Arika, Tetris the grandmaster, for example) But what it does, it really does well, and I r
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
It's hard to overstate Tetris' cultural significance, but Ackerman does a decent job not only of capturing the game's importance in video game culture but also its huge role in shaping licensing deals for software, AND the role it played in opening up commercial trade during the Soviet Union and the West during the glasnost. That said, there's only so much you can write about a game which is so simple in concept, and The Tetris Effect goes on a little too long to remain interesting. The first pa ...more
Cullen Haynes
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
When it comes to iconic Intellectual Property, no other pastime was as engaging and maddeningly addictive as Tetris. From an initial glance, the game looks quite unassuming and simple; like most 'simple' things in this world however, it takes a few minutes to learn but a lifetime to master.
The Tetris Effect tracks it's creation by Alexey Pajitnov in a nondescript government building in Mother Russia, it's licensing out to companies like Tengen and Nintendo and how Tetris mania took over the wor
Caleb Ross
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Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story of how the most addictive game made its way across the Iron Curtain into the hands of millions has been narrated very well. The best part is the "Bonus Level" chapters which were the most interesting parts of the book beyond the story.
Good read for anyone who wants to know about the story and impact of Tetris- the game that has been played by grandfathers, their sons and the grandchildren with equal fervor.
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The development phase of Tetris is interesting, but a large section of the book is about the complicated wrangle for publishing rights. This can be interesting from a legal perspective but can also get a little dull. Ackerman could have played up the personalities involved a bit more for some punch, esp since he apparently had the chance to interview all these players personally. However, it was still kinda cool to go through all this strange hidden legal history of this iconic game.
Ashley Adams
I was really looking forward to reading about the hypnotizing effect of Tetris from Dan Ackerman's The Tetris Effect:The Game that Hypnotized the World. Instead, I got an involved microhistory of the business side of the game. Intellectual property rights in international business deals. Still pretty interesting, but not nearly as enticing as the game itself.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was a surprising gem. It had brisk pacing, an interesting cast of characters and just enough depth to contextualize Tetris's long-lasting impact on the world.

There were also a few "bonus levels" that discussed scientific research that includes Tetris. I thought this was a clever way to insert some random passages into the book without disrupting the narrative too much.
Patrick Pilz
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The business of computer games at the end of the cold war. The Biography of Tetris tells the business story along with a lot of funny anecdotes about the computer game, which ncan be considered the first mobile game ever. Interesting read for nerds, but more of a history/biography book than anything else. Still an interesting part of computer history told fairly well.
Kevin Estabrook
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Listened to the audiobook. I was hoping this would deal more with the psychology of video games. It really deals mostly with the complex history behind Tetris. The amount of detail the author recounts is staggering, just not interesting.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book, but I was teetering between 3 and 4 stars. I was flying through it, but I think that was equal parts it being engaging and it being more along the lines of a long magazine article.

All that said, I’d totally recommend it. It was a quick read but a good one.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I thought this would be more interesting, but wasn't finding the narratives (that of game designer Alexey Pajitnov and the Nintendo rep who expanded the game's reach) very compelling. It was OK, but not something I cared to continue reading.
Carolyn Rein
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting read
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
"So, a classic Tetris game will inevitably end, and mathematicians can do the same thing you and I do when a casual game goes wrong after a dozen pieces - blame those damn Z shapes."
Anna Clifton
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun, enjoyable read about the first bit of IP that came out from behind the Iron Curtain. I liked learning about game licensing and legal battles. Learned a fair bit about that industry.
Sean Reeves
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You wouldn't think you could weave a story about Tetris into a riveting book but Dan Ackerman has succeeded brilliantly.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, culture
The facts about the commercial details are a little bit boring for me but the story behind the creation of the game was great.
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Dan Ackerman is a former radio DJ turned journalist. An editor at leading technology news website CNET, he writes about hot-button consumer technology topics, from virtual reality to cybersecurity, and appears regularly as an in-house tech expert on CBS This Morning. He lives in Brooklyn with his family and a large collection of vinyl records.
More about Dan Ackerman

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