This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tetris,
perhaps the simplest, most addictive and ubiquitous computer game of all time. Journalists, academics,
bloggers and fans of computer gaming, media and pop culture have exploited the celebration with an abundance of coverage. And there's been no shortage of interviews with the game's inventor, Russian
mathematician Alexey Pajitnov.
Why is Tetris so addictive? Players must position blocks to fill a grid without leaving
spaces in between. Successfully completed sections disappear. The more sections the player completes without reaching the top, the higher the score. Pajitnov told CNN
: "First of all, it's a very simple game and it has a really strong creative spirit in it. So instead of
destroying something, you kind of build up the profile out of those small pieces and enjoy doing it. And that's probably the very important addictive factor."
One of the most engaging
aspects of Tetris is the perpetual, intensifying stream of bricks. In fact, this very element foreshadowed how we now consume most news content and personal status updates on the Web: in reverse
chronological streams. Tetris' layers of bricks fall with greater speed and complexity as you master the ability to arrange them in straight, crumbling rows. That is not unlike news feeds and status
updates that funnel into your desktop and mobile interfaces, intensifying as your ability to sort and digest them increases. Indeed, there are classical elements of game mechanics.
I wonder if there is a meaningful endgame similar to Tetris as our ability to
sort and digest news and status streams matures. I don't think Tetris has an endgame, but I'm hopeful there will be one with news and status. The intensifying problem is that streams are overloaded
with noisy signals and too frequently collapse focus. As my friend Len Ellis says, "an abundance of information creates a poverty of attention."
Regardless, we're only at the beginning of
a sweeping adoption of information streams. And we desperately need tools and filters to make them valuable -- versus destructive.
How do you manage your streams?