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Chances are, you’ve played at least one version of Tetris on your computer, phone, or gaming system. Those games always ended in exactly the same way: the blocks (technically known as “Tetriminos”) gradually piled up more quickly than you could clear them until they reached the top of the screen and you lost.
Even artificial intelligence has struggled to conquer the original Nintendo Entertainment System version of Tetris. It was only in the last few years that an AI model known as StackRabbit beat the game by triggering what is known as a “true kill screen,” in which the game freezes because it can no longer compute the player’s score.
Amazingly, a human had never encountered this scenario until a 13-year-old from Oklahoma achieved it last month. On December 21, Willis Gibson was playing Tetris in his bedroom and streaming it on the platform Twitch when the pivotal moment came. Having reached Level 157 after about 38 minutes of gameplay, Willis dropped an “L” shape. The game’s background music turned off, the blocks stopped falling, and the teenager quickly realized that he had made gaming history. His achievement was also the highest overall score in the NES version of the game.
The Tetris whiz kid:
- Though he was already familiar with other versions, Willis Gibson began playing Nintendo’s classic 8-bit Tetris game in 2021. In just over two years, he quickly became one of the game’s best players, winning tournaments and earning over $3,000 in prize money. In October 2023, he placed third in the Classic Tetris World Championship in Portland, Oregon.
- As a competitive Tetris player, Gibson has stayed current with advances in playing styles, having switched from the “hypertapping” technique to the faster “rolling” technique.
- Willis plays under the name “Blue Scuti.” He is a fan of other retro games, including Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong, and also spends time bowling and cycling—when he's not in school, of course.