Experience: I’m the best Tetris player in the world | Life and style


imageT here’s a shelf in my dad’s closet, full of old video games and consoles dating back to the 1970s.I was eight when I found his Nintendo Game Boy and discovered Tetris .My older brother Andy and I played it in our home in Texas.

Tetris is a simple concept: you rotate and align descending shapes to complete horizontal rows, which then drop down and disappear.If uncompleted, they stay on screen and shapes pile up on top.Once the screen fills with shapes, you lose.The game is so universally popular that over the decades, it has migrated from the Game Boy to PlayStation, Xbox, iPhone and everything in between .But when I came across a YouTube video of the Classic Tetris world championship , in 2018, I was amazed.

The competitors use classic 80s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) consoles , and whoever gets the highest score wins.

Their speed and skill at making decisions was genius.

There were commentators hyping up the online audience, which added to the excitement.I became hooked.I was 10 and Andy was 13.We re-watched the whole thing over two days on our living room TV.

The championship began in 2010, but things stepped up a gear in 2018.The seven-time world champion had been dethroned by a 16-year-old, and lots of younger people were watching for the first time.After that, Andy and I began to play competitively; we’d shout our scores at each other from our bedrooms.

We’d always been into electronics.

Dad taught us to code when we were five.I’m a straight-A student and maths is my favourite subject, so gaming taps into the way my mind works.

We bought clone consoles (cheaper, championship-approved replicas of the NES) and started competing in tournaments.I chose a name, Michael “DogplayingTetris” Artiaga (Andy is “PixelAndy”), and built myself an avatar – a dog with a Nintendo controller.

About 200 people signed up for the 2020 world championship qualifiers in December.A casual player might score 50,000 points in a game, but we qualified with six high-scoring, 1m-point games each.We made it to the final eight.Andy and I knocked out all the competition until it was just us, facing off for the title.

It took place on a Sunday.I warmed up with some practice games, drank lots of water and got some fresh air.

Mom and Dad were watching on their computer downstairs, super excited that we were both finalists.Andy and I played from our bedrooms.I have an old-school TV on a table in the corner of my room and play from an office chair without armrests, because they’d get in the way.

My brother sits in an old rocking chair.The Tetris community love teasing us about our chairs.

Experience: I found a 480-million-year-old fossil in my garden Read more During the final, I was nervous but totally focused.We played five games: Andy won two, and I won two.During the decider match, the commentators were going crazy.Then I won, 3-2.It was intense.

Andy walked across the hall into my room and gave me a high five.We’re close, so he was excited for me.

I won $3,000 (£2,225) prize money.

I bought a used NES for 30 bucks on eBay, a drum kit and a guitar, and invested in cryptocurrency.I’ve set up my own tournament, Classic Tetris Brawl , and sell my own merch, too, so I think I could do this professionally for a while.

The championship finals are usually held in Oregon, but they’re online again this year because of Covid.I want to win again.

Before I got into Tetris, I wasn’t well known at school – now I’m “the Tetris guy”.I usually play Tetris once a day, when school and homework are done.

The key to success is watching how others play and learning what it is that makes them better than you.

Tetris is more than 30 years old and it’s still the bestselling video game of all time.I was the second youngest player last year.Afterwards, I had a whole bunch of people reaching out to say congrats, which felt great.

Whatever else I do in life, I’ll always go down as a 13-year-old world champion.

As told to Deborah Linton

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