13-year-old may be 1st person to ‘beat’ Tetris — here’s how that’s possible

Click to play video: '13-year-old Tetris whiz believed to be first person to ‘beat’ the game'
13-year-old Tetris whiz believed to be first person to ‘beat’ the game
WATCH: 13-year-old Willis Gibson, also known as "Blue Scuti" online, is believed to be the first person to officially "beat" the classic version of Tetris, more than three decades after its release. Abigail Bimman looks at what "winning" the influential game actually means – Jan 4, 2024

A teenage boy from Oklahoma claims to be the first person in history to “beat” the classic version of Tetris on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), 34 years after its release.

For those wondering if it’s even possible to “beat” Tetris, the answer is yes and no. When Soviet engineer Alexey Pajitnov created the game in 1984, he didn’t program an ending. However, in 2021, it was discovered that if a player reached a high enough level, it would cause the game to crash.

This had only been achieved by an AI program — until now.

Willis Gibson, 13, posted a video to his YouTube channel on Monday showing his history-making game of Tetris. For 38 straight minutes, he arranged falling Tetris blocks into horizontal lines as the game’s speed increased.

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When he reached level 157, a feat once thought impossible, the game glitched and crashed. No more blocks came down. He had reached the kill screen, effectively beating the game.

The video shows the 13-year-old phenom gasping in surprise.

“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Yes!” Gibson exclaimed, holding his head in his hands. “I’m going to pass out. I can’t feel my fingers. I can’t feel my hands.”

Gibson goes by the name Blue Scuti online. In the description of his YouTube video, he wrote: “When I started playing this game I never expected to ever crash the game, or beat it.”

He claims that his run also broke world records for overall score, level and lines completed.

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Nintendo has yet to make a public comment about the boy’s feat.

Gibson has participated in several gaming tournaments and placed third at the 2023 Classic Tetris World Championship.

So how did he do it? And why did it take this long for a human to beat Tetris?

Until a few years ago, hardcore Tetris players believed it wasn’t possible to surpass level 29 of the game, Ars Technica reports, which makes Gibson’s achievement of reaching level 157 all the more remarkable.

That’s because, at level 29, the game reaches it highest possible speed. At this point, when players hold down left or right on the NES D-pad — which controls the side-to-side motion of the Tetris blocks — the blocks are moving at such a speed that they fall to the bottom of the screen before they can make it all the way to side of the game board.

This means that players can’t place the blocks exactly where they want them, causing the blocks to pile up until they reach the top of the screen, resulting in “game over.”

In 2011, professional gamer Thor Aackerlund developed a technique called hypertapping in which a player rapidly vibrates their finger up and down on the NES D-pad in order to move the Tetris blocks faster than simply pressing and holding down. Using hypertapping, Aackerlund was able to reach level 30.

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But this technique could only take players so far. It would take another 10 years before level 40 was reached using a new gaming innovation: rolling.

Rolling involves players using multiple fingers to tap the bottom of the NES controller in rapid succession, pushing the controller up into the player’s other hand, which presses the D-pad.

In other words, instead of pressing down on the D-pad, players tap the controller up into their finger. This allows the player to register up to five taps on the D-pad extremely quickly, moving the blocks more efficiently.

Considering all these techniques and specific hand grips that pro Tetris players use, it seems this e-sport is more physically strenuous than one might initially expect.

Now that Willis has shown it’s possible for a human to reach the Tetris kill screen, it may be a matter of time until what is considered Tetris’ final achievement is unlocked. At level 255 of Tetris, the game resets to level 0, according to Ars Technica.

If a player can avoid crashing the game before level 255, they could potentially reach Tetris’ final frontier.


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