Tetris has found a new world champion in the form of 16-year-old prodigy Joseph Saelee. Tetris is, of course, the classic video game in which players have to sort rapidly descending tiles in order to form complete lines. The puzzle game was first completed in 1984 and was rapidly released on home consoles and in arcades around the world. It didn't truly hit the mainstream, however, until it was released on the Gameboy in 1989. Since then, the game has become a staple, in one form or another, on almost every device and gaming system. It remains one of the best selling paid-downloaded games of all time.
The Classic Tetris World Championship is an annual event that has been running since 2010. Played on the original NES game system, competitors battle each other until only one remains to claim the grand prize. The contest has spawned numerous champions over the years, including Harry Hong, who, in 2009, was the first to achieve the highest possible score. This, in turn, led to a crowdfunded documentary centered on competitive Tetris. The latest tournament took place from Oct. 19th to the 21st at the Oregon Convention Center, as part of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. As such, although a franchise of Tetris movies is reportedly still in the works, all eyes remained on the game this weekend.
After a round of intense qualifiers, the 32-bracket tournament eventually came down to Saelee and seven-time world champion, Jonas Neubauer. The teenage competitor, who hadn't even been born when the classic 1989 version of Tetris was released, emerged victorious. A video of the tense, climactic moments of the tournament can be found over on Twitch.
Winning 3-0, Saelee will now take home the $1,000 prize money and a Tetris-shaped trophy. The gamer is no stranger to the world of competitive Tetris, however. Hosting his own Youtube channel, the young player can often be seen demonstrating his considerable skills. One such video, released in September, showed him becoming the first player to ever reach Level 31, managing to successfully complete 311 lines.
The world of competitive gaming has moved further and further into the mainstream in recent years. This is in large part due to the popularity of such games as Fortnite, which continues to go from strength to strength, and recently rolled out their Halloween skins. Similarly, the rise of Twitch and gaming live-streamers such as Ninja has also helped in this regard. Ninja even became the first professional gamer to grace the cover of ESPN magazine. That alone should show how far things have come in terms of viewing gaming as a sport.
Whether Saelee returns to defend his title next year remains unknown. It's hard to imagine, however, that he wouldn't want to keep his streak going and potentially, one day, break Neubauer's record. Equally, it's doubtful that Neubauer will miss the chance to reclaim his crown. Whatever the case, more eyes than ever will surely be on the world of competitive Tetris when the tournament returns in 2019.