Why people are watching 'Tetris' tournaments while staying at home

Seeing people play the game virtually is actually quite mesmerising

video game Tetris
CREDIT: Nintendo *** Local Caption ***  al11ma-hall of fame-Tetris.jpg
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While some people are baking bread and gardening while staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, others are turning to more unusual hobbies to pass the time.

First there was marble racing, which fast became the competitive sport of choice to watch on screens as matches and major events were cancelled or postponed. Now, it seems the Classic Tetris championship games are also gaining more fans.

Recently, ESPN brought back ESPN8: The Ocho, a faux network that broadcasts unusual sports, inspired by the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

For 11 hours, it aired a range of activities, from cherry pit spitting to professional arm wrestling and a re-run of the 2018 Classic Tetris World Championship.

Burger eating, stone skipping, robot fighting, sign spinning and death diving are among other sports people have been busy watching while more mainstream events are off.

What is Tetris?

Most of us will remember the tile-matching puzzle video game from our childhoods. It's simple and addictive, inviting gamers to make variously shaped and different coloured blocks slot into straight, neat lines. While it's available on more than 60 platforms, it's arguably best remembered from the Game Boy. Well, at least it is for those unfamiliar with the not-so-underground world of Tetris tournaments, anyway.

What is the Classic Tetris World Championship?

It's an annual video game competition series that began in 2010 during the filming of Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, which set out to discover the world's greatest Tetris player.

It's hosted by the Portland Retro Gaming Expo and this year's event is supposed to go ahead on August 14 to 16. You can watch it live online via the Twitch channel.

Throughout the year, Classic Tetris also hosts monthly matches against top players across the world.

It really is just a matter of watching people play the game against each other and battle it out to be crowned the best.

Why would you watch it?

It's strangely mesmerising and has plenty of fans. In fact, in 2019, the Classic Tetris World Championship got its own one-hour special on ESPN 2, which the group shared online for the first time last month.

Abu Dhabi resident Sami Al Kindi has long been a fan of the tournaments. "I like to watch Tetris because it's fast-paced and the players are really good," he tells The National. "It is also addictive to watch them match everything as the game speeds up."

While he's been watching the matches more frequently amid the pandemic, Al Kindi liked the sport even before it all began. And he plans to continue watching it after the crisis abates. "It’s all in good fun and I do enjoy the videos," he adds.