Chris Higgins travels to the Tetris World Championship and profiles a couple of the game’s top competitors. The issue at heart is: how do approach playing and mastering a game that you can’t actually win?
When Steil achieved his current high score of 889,131 points (and 222 lines) in October of 2012, it felt like a loss. Despite being Steil’s best game to date, it represented a failure to reach the perfection of a max out. When he posted the score on Facebook for his Tetris friends to see, he wrote, “Another new high score, but what a choke job at 222 [lines]. Each new high score is a minor success as well as a monumental failure.”
This attitude pervades competitive Tetris, and it highlights the perverse aspect that the best game is still a loss. Faced with this harsh reality, NES Tetris players have devised ways to compete (the Championship), milestones to achieve (max outs and high numbers of lines per game), and ways to measure performance (max outs achieved starting at higher levels are more difficult due to the game’s speed). Fundamentally, however, players compete against themselves and lose every time.
Here’s what getting a max score on Tetris looks like: