The Tetris Effect: Eye-Poppin’ Mind-Bogglers

No eye checkup could ever fathom this bizarre medical/psychological condition. It may be a trick of an eye or simple case of hallucination or mere illusion, yet it has some sort of scientific explanation. Or maybe it is all in the mind. Blame it to our brain’s plasticity, the ability to shrink and thicken in response to repetitive external stimuli. The brain is really the “control center” of our body because it can easily manipulate us even against our will and sometimes, even subconsciously.

Here is a condition those young at heart and kids who love to play video games will be curious about: the “Tetris Effect”.

Who among you readers aren’t familiar with Tetris? (Don’t you dare raise your hand.) Tetris is a popular game in the 80’s created by Alexey Pajitnov and its birthplace is in Moscow, Russia. How did he come up with such a name? Tetris.com says it is combination of “tetra” (the Greek word of “four”) and “tennis” (the inventor’s favorite sport). It is inspired by a mathematical puzzle game called Pentomino. This game made the Nintendo’s handheld gaming system Game Boy popular. Now it is made “new and improved” to invade the virtual memory of our smartphones and possibly the memory bank of our brains all over again.

tetris effect - eye
Tetris Blitz by Electronic Arts

The game is fairly simple. You have different colorful shaped blocks that you need to stack to one another in a way it would not overlap in order to “vaporize” the blocks in a single line. Academic experts categorize it as a visual-spatial problem-solving computer game, or a fancy name for “this game teaches you things without you knowing it”.

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Tetris Game Boy by Nintendo

But what in the world is the “Tetris effect”? Is it a post-game experience or the aftereffects of it? This somehow rings true. According to healthguidance.org, the “Tetris effect” occurs with any repetitive task that involves particular movements, shapes or colors. It is not just only Tetris, but it can also happen while playing Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and nightmarishly, Flappy Bird (gasp!).

Imagine seeing Tetriminos everywhere; those flying birds or the menacing piggies; those colorful candies; and that annoying red bird launching towards green obstacles. You can also apply it in everyday real-life situations like loading the dishwasher, organizing your shelves or you may check this out.

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weknowmemes.com

Even if you close your eyes or before visiting dreamland (the state of hypnagogic stage of sleeping), you may see behind your eyelids falling colorful blocks. (What a joy.) This is how you experience the “Tetris effect”.  And no, you don’t need to schedule for an eye checkup to make it go away.

Healthguidance.org explains that it is an unconscious effort of your brain to practice and master a repetitive task even when you’re not doing it. Yep, that is our brain, busy as ever. Our so-called “gray matter” is actually helping us to get better at gaming (i.e. Tetris).

Fortunately, the “Tetris effect” has a positive effect in our mental health. A study posted at biomedcentral.com, found out after their subjects practiced (played?) Tetris for 30 minutes a day, their brain had “thickened”. This is more likely a sign that their brains have improved its memory capacity. In addition, huffingtonpost.com says it also makes the brain more efficient and helps those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. So, annihilating those pesky blocks has a good outcome after all.

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Aaargh! Eye checkup, now!

Wait for more strange medical conditions that our eyes or brains could trick us! The next will definitely need an eye checkup to decipher.

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