I found something out today that surprised me. Did you know that Tetris has had more than 16 million mobile downloads worldwide?
It wasn’t just the number of downloads that surprised me, but also the fact that it was for Tetris; a game which first came out in 1980 – an “old-fashioned” game.
Tetris was one of the first games I got hooked on as a kid. All my friends played it. So did my brothers and sisters and, weirdly, even my parents.
But what was it about Tetris? Or rather, what is it about Tetris that makes people like it so much?
Box Brown, in his book Tetris: The Games People Play, has the answer.
When a Tetris piece drops onto the screen, your brain registers a new problem to solve. Then, when you fit the piece into a space, this creates a feeling of satisfaction.
These two simple processes (being presented with a new challenge, followed by experiencing a sense of satisfaction) repeated over and over again (which is the basic mechanics of the game) makes the player want to keep playing.
In other words, Tetris is built to create a feeling of satisfaction in the player. And the more pieces the player manages to place, the more satisfaction they experience.
And there’s more. Professor Jackie Andrade and her team from the Psychology Department at Plymouth University reached another conclusion after carrying out an experiment with 31 graduates aged between 18 and 27 years old.
During the study, the graduates were asked whether they experienced any desires or cravings (for drugs, food, exercise, etc.). The researchers asked the same question seven times a day. Of the 31 graduates, 15 were required to play Tetris for three minutes before responding or reporting any cravings or desires.
Those who played Tetris before answering the researchers’ questions experienced 14% less desire to consume some type of drug or food, or to do another activity.
Because playing Tetris or a similar game involves a mental process which keeps our thoughts occupied. It’s difficult to play Tetris and think about something else at the same time. At Wibbu, we built our entire learning system around this fact. Our new game, RUBY REI, follows the same satisfying problem/solution formula as Tetris.
According to Jackie Andrade, when we experience cravings or the desire to consume something, be it drugs or food, the brain starts thinking about and imagining the process of consumption.
This is true for everyone. For example, when we feel like eating chocolate, our mouth starts watering as we imagine the taste of it.
But this process of imagining our desires and cravings being satisfied doesn’t happen when we play Tetris. The only thing we’re thinking about is where to put the next piece.
Tetris is built to create a feeling of satisfaction in the player. And the more pieces the player manages to place, the more satisfaction they experience.
Jackie Andrade and her team came to the conclusion that Tetris, as a means of support, could help people to control their daily desires and cravings.
This conclusion is further proof of the benefits of puzzles. It’s confirmation that playing games which require concentration is good for people’s psychological development and well-being.
What’s even better is that, whereas 36 years ago only people who had a games console at home could play Tetris, today we all have a “games console”: our phones!
And because Tetris, RUBY REI, and a whole host of other puzzle games are just two clicks away, it’s never been easier to reap the benefits of playing them.
By Jonay Suárez, Head of Marketing at Wibbu.