“Fortunes were made and lawsuits fought as Tetris swept the world in the 1980s and killed a million conversations. But 20 years after the creation of this technological phenomenon, its creator Alexey Pajitnov is only just beginning to make any money.
Back in 1985, in the Cold War Soviet Union, the man responsible for one of the most addictive computer games in history was a jobbing scientist at the Russian Academy of Science. Where his predecessors had monitored Sputniks and calculated Soviet superpower, Pajitnov was able to indulge his love of puzzles and human psychology.
Events conspired to make Tetris the success it proved. Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise to power in the Kremlin lowered trade barriers between east and west, and created a new capitalist awareness among Russians.
Game developers in the west like Atari and Nintendo were creating new portable consoles – perfect platforms for the simple design that was Tetris. At the same time, entrepreneurs like Robert Maxwell had noted the huge market potential of electronic entertainment.
As Tetris reaches a whole new generation through mobile phones, with even bigger fortunes to be made, Pajitnov remains philosophical about his place as a cog in the great capitalist machinery. “You could always make a little more,” he says, “but I never seriously think about this stuff. I live as I live.””