Tetris Life

I once spent a whole summer playing Tetris. I’d get up late and play, like, seven hours straight. And then, at night, when I slept, I’d see the blue and yellow and red and green blocks falling like alien snow, soft and easy in my dreams, falling into place with a touch of my mind.

But the summer ended and it was time to go back to school. Obviously I couldn’t play so much and anyway I met Susie soon after that. But that summer of Tetris has always stayed with me, as a metaphor, and I still get those dreams sometimes.

I figured life is just a game of Tetris, isn’t it? You twist and turn to fit in around other people, sometimes you slot into space perfectly; other times it’s awkward, nothing seems to fit and there’s a bit of a panic as the mistakes pile up. Sometimes it gets so awful that you’ve got no choice but to fail and start all over, building up from the bottom again.

The most important thing in Tetris, like in life, is to have a good strong foundation. An early mistake is always lurking there to trip you up. You’ve got to dig down and sort it out sooner or later or you won’t get anywhere. Sorting yourself out can take a long time, but it’s always possible.

The art of Tetris is to stay focussed on the current block, while keeping one eye on what’s coming next. But you’ll never really know the future, nothing beyond the next block. You have to deal with the blocks that life throws at you.

Me and Susie lasted a couple of terms, but then she decided that Adam fitted her much better. That was fine by me. She helped me get through a couple of levels and then I was ready for more, with a clear screen ahead of me.

As I get older, though, I find the blocks are falling fasting. It’s that much more difficult to manipulate them and get them slotting in the right way. Sometimes you just have to make do, cram them in any old how. There’s no point waiting for the right block, I don’t have time. Once, around level four, I waited almost the whole game for one of those long straight blocks. I could afford to do that, the game was still pretty slow and, when it came – boom – five rows down in one.

I don’t have that luxury any more. I’ve got to make do with whatever comes my way. Just keep going, line after line, level after level, until one day it all just falls apart.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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