Lets Get This Straight: Tetromino and Tetris


A Tetromino is a geometric figure composed of four, square sub-units that are connected orthogonally. There are five unique configurations of tetrominoes referred to as the L/J, S/Z, I, O, and T pieces because they resemble these characters of the Roman alphabet.

You might be familiar with the term Domino, a geometric figure comprised of two square subunits connected orthogonally. Also in existence are “pentominoes” (five) and “polyminoes”(more than one; many). Pentomino is a puzzle game that consists of arranging different configurations of pentominoes into rectangular boxes of varying sizes.


In 1985 Alexey Pajitnov invented Tetris, a computer game derived from his favorite puzzle game, Pentomino. Most likely, Pazitnov used tetromineos in place of pentominoes for simplicity’s sake. In Tetris, randomly ordered tetrominoes descend from the top of a grid at a constant speed. Players must arrange these “falling” pieces on the grid through rotation and translation. Once a piece hits the “ground”, it locks into place. When a complete horizontal row of the grid is filled, the row is cleared and the player is awarded points. Players can change the acceleration of the pieces to win more points. The object of the game is to gain as many points as possible before reaching the top of the grid.
Tetris Game Concept

What I just described is the game concept of Tetris. The only intellectual property right that protects a game concept is a patent.

If Alexey had not been living in the Soviet Union at the time of his invention, he might have patented the Tetris game concept. However, he was living in a time and place where private business was outlawed and the idea of intellectual property did not exist. The BBC documentary entitled Tetris, From Russia with Love describes the atmosphere of Russia in 1985 as a place where

“individual ideas were owned by the state and were to be shared among everyone.”

So, Alexey put Tetris on a disk and shared it with his friends. Tetris spread throughout Russia, and then to Hungary, and then to the rest of the world.

Explore posts in the same categories: Tetris and Falling Block Games

One Comment on “Lets Get This Straight: Tetromino and Tetris”

  1. Aekar Says:

    Thanks a great lot for all information you have put in those pages. You did a comprehensive study and are the one, and only relevant webpage I have found regarding this.

    Those pages are a great help for people, especially people like myself. I am preparing for iPhone development and have been startled by the removal of the “Tris” application, first, and then by the removal of the “Shaker” application from the Apple Store because of such issues by the Tetris Corporation.

    Shaker should not have been removed, from what I have read in your messages.

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