13-Year-Old Is First Person to 'Break' Tetris

No one thought the video game could be beat, but Willis 'blue scuti' Gibson proved everyone wrong
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2024 8:25 AM CST
Updated Jan 7, 2024 7:25 AM CST

Since its inception, the NES version of Tetris had been considered an impossible game to beat. After more than three decades, however, a 13-year-old has now done the impossible. Popular Science reports on the "wunderkind" Willis Gibson, 13, who at the end of December reached what's called the "true kill screen" of the game, when the game's code somehow triggers the whole thing to crash. As Pop Sci explains, it was originally thought that Level 29 was the end of the game—not because it was technically a kill screen, but because the pieces moved so fast that no human had been able to get past that point.

Gamers got creative, though, as detailed by aGameScout's explainer on how Willis, who plays under the screen name "blue scuti," conquered the game. Players started using different methods on the game controller itself—including techniques called "hypertapping" and "rolling," per IGN—that enabled them to move faster than the game and advance past Level 29, a feat achieved in 2010 by gamer Thor Aackerlund. Other gamers also started advancing, and by last November, Level 148 had been achieved.

An AI version of the game played on a modified version was able to get past even the most difficult levels featuring color schemes of hard-to-see dark or black blocks, inspiring humans to try to do the same. Making the feat extra-challenging is the fact that the glitch needed to "break" the game and effectively end it could be triggered at any time on Level 155 or higher, depending on certain circumstances. Enter Willis, who completed the impossible on Dec. 21. "Oh, my God," he can be heard exclaiming in the livestream after his accomplishment at Level 157.

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As it turns out, there are still goals to be reached in the game and further records to be broken: Technically, for instance, there's a final level—Level 255, the last level stored in the game's memory—where all the falling blocks turn red and, once cleared, will reset the game to Level 0. As for Willis, who plays the game three to five hours a day, he advises, "If you set your mind to something and you put work into it, most likely you will get it." (More Tetris stories.)

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