The Tetris Effect BFG’s

The reason why I love video games so much is that I’ve been involved in a lot of video games firsts. In 1979, when home video games were just tiny little babies, I got an Atari 2600. I was the first person I knew to have one of them. I had no idea that that day would be the beginning of a now 43-year-old relationship I’ve had with video games. I’ve known games longer than I’ve know my wife, kids, and even some of my siblings.

Not only was I one of the first people to get an Atari, but I was also one of the first to get a Nintendo Entertainment System, a few years before many kids would get one. It was the first time I had ever seen a home console that had graphics that looked exactly like in the arcades (Super Mario Brothers). Just before I got my NES, I had to spend all my quarters and time at the arcade, but now I could waste all my time and money on the console at home. I could restart the game over and over and not have to insert a quarter into the Nintendo, which I learned much later after ruining the machine. It was a mind-blowing moment in the mind of a 12-year old that loved video games.

Since Nintendo cemented my love for video games, I became loyal to the brand. When they came out with a miniature, handheld way of playing video games, I couldn’t believe it. The Game Boy came out in 1989, and I became one of the first people to buy one. The first game that came with the Game Boy was Tetris, which I thought was okay, but it was a phenomenon. No matter who you were, or how little you knew about video games, you could play it. It simply gave you 4 shapes that you had to keep configuring as they floated down so you could create a line. The line would disappear, and you kept going until you could no longer make lines. So simple, anyone could figure it out, yet so addicting that no one could put it down.

Something really strange happened to people that played Tetris too much. It was called the Tetris effect (or syndrome). When people played it too much, they started seeing the four shapes in real life. Like they would see a stack of boxes and think of them as Tetris shapes. In fact, to this day, when helping people move, I will still see people referring to Tetris when they are stacking boxes in a moving van or garage.

The Tetris effect doesn’t just work for Tetris. It works for other things in life, like Rubik’s cubes, or other puzzle type games as well. Lately, I’ve noticed the Tetris effect happening to me, but in more of a metaphorical sense.

I’ve known about story structure for a long time, because I was interested in writing a book a while ago. I read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and other books about story structure. Lately, I’ve read other books and learned other methods. I recently learned about the Saving the Cat Method and now I can’t stop learning about new ways that people structure stories. Once I got started, I geeked out about story structure, and I started seeing story everywhere (IE the Tetris effect).

In other words, I’m seeing inciting incidents, calls to adventures, and all is lost moments everywhere. I’m seeing 3rd acts, and characters arcs, and Gathering of Teams. I could be in the mall, and I’ll see a couple arguing in the mall and I’ll observe, “Oh, they are in their 3rd act, where everything seems lost. I’m sure they will find the magic elixir that will help them work it out soon.”

Some people see the world in a scientific way and see us all as just a big bag of cells that make up all the people, places and things. There are others that see the world from a social lens, that collect freinds like other people collect Pokemon cards. Others see the world in a political or religious ways.

I see the world as a collection of stories. To me, people, places and things are just somewhere on a timeline of their Hero’s (or Villain’s) journey. Right now, they might be in the middle of the 2nd act, or in the Dark Knight of the Soul time period. Or they might be in Finale part 3, the Hightower surprise.

The ironic part of my story structure Tetris effect is that it somehow makes me blind to my own writing. For instance, I probably couldn’t figure out where all those beats are in my blog posts. And I certainly can’t seem to write my book with all those beats. Turns out, I’m as story structure blind as some teenage boys are nose blind to their smelly and disgusting rooms.

I’m not sure which part of the story structure the Bitter Friday Giftures come in, but I’ll let you figure that out. While you are doing so, feel free to view these things…

The beginning of my 43 year old…

…relationship with video games.

Some think of games as a distraction or a hobby…

…I think of it as a destination.

When Mario looked just as good at home…

…as he did at the arcade, I was hooked.

When I was able to play them anywhere I wanted…

…it became my identity.

While I thought Tetris…

…was kind of a mess…

The Tetris effect…

..worked on a lot of other people.

My Tetris effect is more of a…

…story structure effect.

Some people see…

…butterflies everywhere.

Some people see the world as just a collection…

…of bits and code.

Some people see the world through a social lens…

…where they just collect a bunch of friends.

Not me. All I see…

…is story. Story everywhere.

Because they are…


In case you were wondering, this is the part of the story where it ends. Don’t worry though, because the story will continue next week. So, stop crying because the story is over and be bitter because it will never end.


Bitter Tetris Effect Ben


44 thoughts on “The Tetris Effect BFG’s

  1. I know, right? It was such an exciting adventure to have a bike and zip all around! And it wasn’t even a thing to wear helmets while bike riding. I don’t know if you did this, but it was big fun to make ramps out of plywood and some of those concrete bricks. Nowadays, such stunts are pretty mild!


  2. I loved Tetris on my Game Boy and enjoyed Mario Brothers on games in bars [might have been the booze though], but I never liked playing video games on TV screens. I play Candy Crush Soda Saga on my phone, like the old person I am, but games like you mention bore me. Try not to be bitter about that


  3. I too started with the Atari and when they came with cartridges with switches that could hold more than 1 game in it; I blew my mind. I upgrated joystics and enjoyed the ones with the sucktion cups at the bottom; although they were stuck to nothing as I did not have the discipline to sit on a table and play the games on the Atari. I think Tennis, Glactica were some of the games I remember from that console. Then exposed to the PS One and the PS2 and in between enjoyed games like Contra, Sonic, Mortal Combat on the SEGA but stuck to the PS2 and enjoyed FIFA Street. POP, GOW, Hitman, Metal Gear and so many others I cannot remember now. Everyone has a story some are bad directors of their lives and some are born to tell a story that hurts


    • Yeah, just writing about it brought back memories for me. It’s just funny as a pioneer in games how the kids talk about their youth talking Xbox 360 and PS2 and three. We were the ones that had to deal with graphics being way worse than the arcades and blowing on cartridges to get games how they are today, where kids are getting paid to play them on Twitch. If only we could have got paid back then…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember getting mad when Nintendo threw a hissy fit when Tengen came out with a Tetris game for the NES, blocked its distro and then came out with their mediocre Tetris themselves.


  5. I can relate, in a different way. You (and those who read me) have probably noticed I have an obsession with radio towers and the imagery from them. Me and my mother will be watching TV, and a show with some mountain range will come on, and I’m instinctively scanning the ridgelines for antennas.


    • You would have loved my job I had for a radio communications company. We sold two-way radios and a lot of employees worked with radio towers, repeaters, etc. You could have geeked out at my job. I was just lowly csr that didn’t care about the radio stuff.


      • On one of my trips to the site near me, I ran into one of the transmitter engineers for a local radio station, and this guy had stories to tell. He’s been in local radio here for …. ever, and told me all about the history of the place, all sorts of stuff. You had a truly fascinating job, as does this guy. I’m only peripherally interested in the equipment, it’s the views from these sites that blow my wheels.


        • So for you it is mostly the actual towers? That seems cool. I knew a guy that started a tower building company before cell phones were cool and now he’s really rich because of how many towers we need for cell phones and such. Wish I would have started in the Tower business before cell phones.


        • The site that I visit most often (Buckhorn Mountain), used to be an old AT&T Long Lines microwave site, and was manned 24/7/365 back in the 60’s. When I was a kid, we lived in the same place I do now, but TV was challenging since we’re in a canyon. Best we could do was a fuzzy channel 5 from Cheyenne. So I started reading about and building antennas.
          Of course now, we have DirectTV and this isn’t a problem … but Channel 5 is alive, well, and all-digital nowadays.
          I actually plan to visit some other tower farms near me soon.


  6. You brought back a lot of memories for me…And the Tetris effect, huh? I kinda of remember having a bit of that. LOL…Oh, and Pac-Man on the Atari 2600. I remember how we were “ooo-ing” and convincing ourselves of “how much” it was similar to the “real thing” when it was NOTHING like it. HA HA HA! Oh my gosh. What did I do with my life as a kid?


    • Yeah, it brought up the memories for me too. The Atari never had the arcade graphics, but it wasn’t until Nintendo came out with Super Mario that graphics got arcade like. It was still years before the home consoles far surpassed every game in the arcade, but when it did, that’s when the arcade died. Sad, because I miss the arcade, but happy, because I hate being in the public with other people.


  7. I, too, love video games! And writing stories! Sometimes, I try to blend these two passions together, but the result is usually a terrible story based on a video game. As for real stories, plotting is the hardest part for most people. It’s basically the right-brained version of software engineering.


    • My story is just that blend of video games and writing. There are so many possibilities with it that I find myself changing it all the time. I pantsered the first draft, but it is clearly in need of a plotter for the second draft, because I was so lost when I wrote it through.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I usually come up with a super basic plot and then pants the whole thing. That might explain why my first drafts are so chaotic 😜. But as some guy said, “write drunk, edit sober.” Unless you don’t drink, in which case I recommend sleep deprivation, which I assume is kind of the same thing.


        • I pantsered the first draft that is for sure, but this next time, I’m totally going to outline it better. The panstering thing was very frustrating and choatic like you said. The editing is definitely the plotter thing though. And I don’t drink, but I do stay up way too late so sleep deprivation is no problem for me.

          Liked by 1 person

Your Bitter Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.