Tetris worked just fine in all of its low resolution glory. Now there are numerous versions of the puzzle game, including “Funny” Tetris with cartoon characters instead of tiles, at left, and quasi-3D versions. In the past two decades, one would be very hard pressed to name a computer operating system or gaming system that does not offer the game.
The deceivingly addictive game debuted in 1984 and has been numbing minds, distracting coworkers and improving hand-eye coordination ever since. The game was so named, as every single shape consists of four (tetra) tiles. According to Wikipedia, inventor Alexey Pajitnov also loved tennis, and merged the two words together.
According to the Japan Science and Technology Agency/Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society, a study was conducted measuring the effect playing Tetris and Brain Age had on cognitive function in the elderly. The study concluded that after 4 weeks, the sample participants playing Brain Age exhibited greater cognitive function, though an additional test is needed with a larger group. However, in a separate study (Haier, Karama, Leyba and Jung,) it was reported that adolescent girls playing Tetris had developed a thicker cortex over a course of three months, as observed on an MRI. When the cortex thickens, neural pathways work faster or more efficiently. I did not find similar studies on boys.
The difference, of course, comes down to the intellectual demands Brain Age requires when putting numbers in sequence, versus the visual and spatial skills required for playing Tetris. Of course, playing video games is no replacement for developing these areas of the brain through problem solving, interaction with others and athletics, but perhaps we are slowly learning of ways to exercise our brains in a different way. However, there is much danger in using video games as the sole or chief way to cultivate those benefits.
The next time you are watching the hours roll by, sometimes a quick game is a way to distract the mind for a minute to reboot your thinking or to definitely help with weak eye muscles, but choose your game wisely.