Being the first person to beat the original Tetris game would have been enough for 13-year-old Willis Gibson, a shy teen who spends hours every day piecing the virtual tiles together.
But meeting the two men behind the Tetris Co. was almost too much for Willis, who struggled to find the words when Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of the game we know today, and Henk Rogers, the company’s founder and chairman, surprised him during a Zoom interview with NBC News.
“This is so cool,” Willis said as Rogers introduced himself. “I never thought I would be able to talk to you guys.”
On Tuesday, Willis posted a video to his YouTube page that showed him appearing to defeat Tetris after about 38 minutes of playing.
The teen, who goes by Blue Scuti online, is seen breathing heavily and exclaiming when he crashed Tetris, reaching the game’s kill screen.
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Yes,” he said in the video. “I’m going to pass out. I can’t feel my fingers. I can’t feel my hands.”
Willis explained that the original Tetris programmers never thought someone would be able to beat their game, “so when you do make it that far, the game just can’t handle it. And it just crashes.”
“When I first started playing the game, I didn’t even know that was possible,” Willis said. “And even up until recently, I never thought I’d even get, like, close to it.
Maya Rogers, CEO of Tetris, congratulated Willis on the “extraordinary accomplishment, a feat that defies all preconceived limits of this legendary game.”
“This monumental achievement not only breaks new ground in the realm of Tetris but also ignites our anticipation for its future,” Rogers said in a statement.
Becoming the first person to crash Tetris
Willis said he was “shocked” and “happy” that he achieved this feat, even though Pajitnov maintains that the game is unbeatable.
“He didn’t crash my game. He crashed the program which was created 40 years ago by NES engineers. So, the game is not crashable at all,” Pajitnov frankly told the teen.
Still, Willis dedicated his Tetris defeat to his father, who died last month and was supportive of his son’s love of gaming.
“He definitely would be proud. He’d tell anybody and everybody how good his kid was at Tetris,” his mother, Karin Cox, said.
Willis said he’s drawn to Tetris because of its “simplicity,” noting that the game is “easy to pick up, but it’s very difficult to, like, really get good at it.” He said he uses a technique called “rolling” that enables faster movements.
But beating the game won’t stop Willis, a student at Stillwater Junior High in Oklahoma, who is locked into a world of Tetris competitions and tournaments. He won third place at the world championship in Portland, Oregon, in October, and said he holds the world record for Tetris on Gameboy, too.
Pajitnov was blown away by the accomplishment.
“That’s quite amazing. Because among those players, there are really great players, aren’t they?” he said.