Short essays and musings from my independent study of Game Design

Month: June 2021

Tetris: The Endless Puzzle

Watch the video version of this essay here

In 1984 Alexey Pajitnov created in his free time at work one of the most prolific and influential puzzle games of all time: Tetris. Based on toys Alexey played with during his childhood, Tetris is a simple puzzle arcade game where descending blocks are required to line up to clear itself.

The player is to tackle two goals:

  1. to not have the blocks tower to the very top by clearing lines,
  2. get as many points as possible by clearing lines.

More points are awarded as more lines are cleared at once, the most being four, making a “Tetris”. To fight against the player the game gets faster as progress is made. Naturally, as the game continues to go on little mistakes will inevitably be made, thus adding a third objective to the game: fixing said mistakes.


Tetris as a game can become stressful and quickly overwhelming to the uninitiated, but with the right amount of focus, skill and in keeping calm the player can eventually overcome the game. In my opinion and from my experience, getting better at this game is just as rewarding as Dark souls can be. The skill progression is almost instant for any player, first one figures out how to clear lines, then they start trying to set up a Tetris, and then learn to fix the mistakes made in both processes, then repeat that learning loop on a faster game speed.

The Randomization however is what separates this game from your average puzzle or one of Tetris’ contemporaries such as The Rubik’s Cube; Every time Tetris is fired up its a different experience and I’m not just talking about the endless ports.

While you can know what the next piece will definitely be, you will never be able to predict what the starting piece will be or what other pieces are coming down the pipeline.  Making each new run a whole new puzzle. Sometimes you may start with an L Piece,standing for “lucky you”, or other times your luck might dry up and you start with an s or a z, leaving you to figure out how to fill that seemingly blocked off hole on the bottom row. (Hint: there are ways) No one will ever be able to “memorize” Tetris and do it from memory making professional Tetris quite the interesting thing to watch, and making Tetris itself, an endlessly re-playable game.

Tetris as a puzzle game as all the right parts for a flawless masterpiece. The design encourages progress, and the use of randomization is perfect to make this game last forever for any player. It’s simple enough to be played on anything, by anyone, just complex enough to be as widely engaging. In 1985 Tetris was not just some puzzle game from Russia, it was a whole new breed of puzzle, the endless puzzle, Tetris. 

Kirbyism, My Favorite Design Philosophy

Watch the video version of this essay here

If you asked me who my favorite Game Designer of all time was. I’d quickly tell you it was certainly Masahiro Sakurai. Since he is the mind behind my favorite childhood games, Kirby’s Dream Land and Kirby’s Adventure and the series that got me into game design and development, Super Smash Brothers.
Sakurai developed both as a rising star at Nintendo, creating Kirby’s Dream Land at just 19 years of age. His primary teacher being the Neo Geo he kept at home for “Study”. Whether by sheer genius or through inspiration wrought on  by arcade classics such as King of Fighters, Sakurai began to swear by his own Game Design Philosophy, that being Kirbyism. Kirbyism is the idea that a good game ought to be able to be enjoyed by both complete beginners and hardened veterans. This is achieved by designing the game in such a way that it is approachable and fun but still challenging . Simple enough for even a child to pick up,  and challenging enough for a experienced player to master.

This is what inspired Kirby’s core design as a series. The ability to float above whole sections in Kirby’s Dream Land seems cheap until you realize that it allows the player to control their difficulty on the fly as they could just as easily choose to play via normal platforming, thus any player should find themselves at least enjoying this Gameboy classic. But more far reaching was the  game Super Smash Brothers.

Inspired by games like final fight, Sakurai wanted to bring the excitement, strategy, and challenge of fighting games not only home, but also make it accessible to even the most inexperienced of players. Either by way of simplification of controls, or by changing what made a KO a KO, Kirbyism was forcefully combined with the fighting game genre to create one of the most popular party games, while also being one of the most popular competitive fighting games of all time.

These aren’t even all the examples of Kirbyism, arguably Splatoon, the kart racer genre, portal, the sonic series, the Pok√©mon trading card game,  Minecraft, Action RPGs, Halo, modern adventure games, Civilization 4 5 6… and so on have all employed some aspect or all aspects of this simple and widespread design philosophy, which thus made a lot of the games enjoyable by everyone.

Why do I love Kirbyism?

I love Kirbyism because I think everyone should be able to enjoy the games they play, I hope this medium can help make anyone’s day a little better and their smile a little brighter. I want games to be about the Fun and the Challenge, and I think that’s what Kirbyism is all about.