Ms. Cox bought her son a version of a Nintendo console called the RetroN, which used the same hardware as the original Nintendo console, from a pawn shop, as well as an old cathode ray tube television to help him get started. In a week, Willis said, she plays about 20 hours of Tetris.
“I’m actually fine with it,” said Ms. Cox, a high school math teacher. “He does other things besides play Tetris, so it wasn’t that hard to say OK. It was harder to find an old CRT TV than it was to say, “Yeah, we can do this for a while.”
For decades, players have “beated” Tetris by hacking the game’s software. But Willis, who over the past year has become one of the best Tetris players in the country, is thought to be the first to do so on the original hardware.
“It’s never been done by a human before,” said Vince Clemente, president of the World Classic Tetris Championship, adding: “It’s basically something that everyone thought was impossible until a couple of years ago.”
In the competitive world of Tetris, the goal is generally to outperform your opponents rather than outlast them. “Proving the accident” is a completely different approach. It’s an act of survival.
“The main strategy is to play as safe as possible,” Willis said.
It’s a little more complicated than that, said David Macdonald, a video game content creator and competitive Tetris player known as aGameScout. In recent years, top players have begun using the “rolling technique,” a method of rapid tapping using multiple fingers rather than just one or two. This innovation has changed what is possible in competitive Tetris. Many top players are “crashing down”, instead of simply accumulating as many points as possible before being defeated by the game.