Tetris – From Russia with Love
Directed by Magnus Temple (2004)
Tetris is a documentary about the fiendishly addictive 1980s computer game, the Soviet programmer who created it and the shrewd Soviet bureaucrat who prevented late media mogul Robert Maxwell and Atari from stealing the rights to it.
Alexey Pajitnov at the Moscow Computer Center created Tetris in 1985, based on a popular Soviet puzzle for children. He and colleagues immediately recognized its addictive potential – it was impossible to stop playing once you started.
As it spread like a virus (from computer to computer) across the Soviet block, an enterprising Hungarian entrepreneur named Robert Stein sold it to the computer games division of Robert Maxwell’s media empire. They, in turn, sold it to Atari for use on their video game console. It was only when a Japanese businessman named Henk Rogers went to Moscow to seek the right to use it on hand held Game Boys that the Soviets realized their invention had been ripped off by greedy capitalists.
The documentary reveals how a cagey Soviet bureaucrat Nikolai Belikov shrewdly played off Maxwell, Atari and Nintendo against one another. Nintendo eventually wound up with both the video game and the Game Boy rights. By 2004, Nintendo had sold 8 million Tetris cartridges for their game console. Tetris has also been directly responsible for the sale of 70 million Game Boys.
In 1991, Pajitnov quit his job at Moscow Computer Center and moved to Seattle to work on developing computer games. He spent four years trying to start his own company. In 1995 he went to work for Microsoft.
In 1991, Maxwell mysteriously disappeared after ripping off his company’s pension fund.
If you’ve never tried Tetris you Play it for free (at your own risk) at http://www.freetetris.org/game.php. Be advised it’s just as addictive as it ever was.