In a remarkable feat in the world of gaming, 13-year-old Willis Gibson, known as "blue scuti" among gaming enthusiasts, has set a new precedent by becoming the first to conquer the original Nintendo version of Tetris. On December 21, Willis reached what is known in gaming as a "kill screen" at Level 157, a point where the game's code encounters a glitch and crashes. This event, rare and highly sought after among gamers, signifies pushing the game beyond its intended limits, a significant achievement in a game like Tetris, which was long considered unbeatable.
Tetris, with its endless gameplay of falling four-block shapes, presents no scripted ending, challenging players to continually improve their stacking strategies to survive longer. This victory by Willis is even more notable as it comes as Tetris nears its 40th anniversary, a testament to the game's enduring appeal and complexity. Maya Rogers, the CEO of Tetris, lauded Willis’ victory as an extraordinary accomplishment that pushes the boundaries of this legendary game.
The journey to this point was chronicled by gaming YouTuber David Macdonald, who noted that early Tetris players struggled to surpass the initial levels. Techniques such as "hypertapping," where players vibrated their fingers rhythmically to move the controller faster, and "rolling," a method combining multi-finger techniques, gradually enabled gamers to reach unprecedented heights in the game. However, as players ventured into these uncharted territories, the game presented new challenges, such as intricate and confusing color patterns at higher levels, making the gameplay progressively more difficult.
These challenges were further elucidated by a Tetris-playing AI program, StackRabbit, which helped to identify specific conditions that could lead to a game-ending glitch. This AI program, though playing a modified version of Tetris, demonstrated that certain gameplay events could trigger glitches, paving the way for human players to explore these possibilities in the original game. Gamers, inspired by StackRabbit's findings, compiled a comprehensive spreadsheet detailing the specific game levels and conditions most likely to cause a crash.
Armed with this knowledge, Willis embarked on his record-setting journey, meticulously planning his approach to exploit these identified glitches. His reaction upon reaching the kill screen was one of utter astonishment and disbelief. In a live-streamed video, he can be seen overwhelmed by the magnitude of his achievement, a moment of pure, unscripted emotion that resonated with viewers and gamers alike. This accomplishment not only marks a milestone in the history of Tetris but also stands as a testament to the evolving relationship between players and video games, where boundaries are continuously pushed, and the impossible becomes possible.