Car chases, KGB honeytraps and a furious Robert Maxwell…the astonishing tale of Tetris
A fast-paced Cold War thriller featuring sinister KGB agents, Muscovite boffins, powerful US capitalists and a raging British media tycoon.
It all sounds like the plot of a computer game. In fact, it is — the astonishing tale of Tetris.
Millions of us have played Tetris. It is the simple but beguiling game of falling bricks of varied shapes, which have to be rapidly rearranged to form a solid wall.
It’s utterly addictive and remains a commercial phenomenon, easily the best-selling video game of all time with more than half a billion downloads on mobile devices alone.
Tetris has even been the subject of scientific studies, one of which found that playing the game can help fight off cravings for food and even drugs.
Alexey Pajitnov (right) was a Soviet computer engineer and programmer and the developer of one of the most popular computer games in history – Tetris (pictured in Moscow in 1989).
A new film, Tetris, starring British actor Taron Egerton as Henk Rogers (pictured), best known for playing Elton John in Rocketman, brings the complex saga vividly to life.
While its 1990s heyday has passed, when people dream or hallucinate about the games they play on screens, it is still known as ‘the Tetris effect’.
But hardly anyone who has played Tetris knows that, after being conceived in 1984 by an obscure computer scientist in Moscow, it was fiercely fought over by the world’s biggest video-game companies, media mogul Robert Maxwell and the KGB in a tangle of corporate chicanery. Greed and ineptitude.
A new film, Tetris, starring British actor Taron Egerton, best known for playing Elton John in Rocketman, brings the complex saga vividly to life.
There are car chases, violent assaults, KGB ‘honeypot’ traps, and an enraged Maxwell (brilliantly played by Roger Allam).
The tycoon was so desperate to obtain the lucrative rights to the game — which he hoped would help rescue his ailing empire — that he threatened to appeal personally to Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
The film, out this Friday on streaming service Apple TV+, tells the story of Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov, who named the game after the Greek word for four, tetra, combined with his favorite sport, tennis.