[In the flat monotonous urban jungle just off Don Shula Expressway, Ordell stands, dressed in jeans and a T-Shirt, hair tied back into a loose ponytail. The mask that usually adorns the back of his head is tied around his belt and hangs from his waist. The sky is overcast, but the air feels dense. Despite the lack of sun, despite the winter season, this place is warm. Ordell stands in a car park, and nestled amongst several retail units housing a pizzeria, a car rental place and a launderette sits your typical American arcade.]
“In 1984, a man changed the world forever. Inspiring procrastination for generations, Alexey Pajitnov put the finishing touches to his soviet gaming masterpiece. Having grown up playing tabletop games based on polyominoes, Alexey found four to be the ideal number between challenging and frustration. So he named his creation after the Greek prefix for the number four.”
[Ordell makes his way through the main entrance, taking in the vast array of blinking machinery around him. He seems to spot what he is looking for off in the distance and continues walking.]
“In Tetris, each playing piece – each tetromino – is made of four squares. At first glance, it seems simple, right? How can four squares arranged in different patterns cause so many problems to so many people? And how can something so simple create hours of fun?”
[Ordell settles in front of a slightly dusty Tetris games machine, seemingly straight out of the 80s. He slots a coin into the contraption and the familiar bleeps and bloops begin to emanate.]
“It all comes down to tactics. Smarts.
Almost anyone in the world can pick up a console controller, a mobile phone, or sit at their computer desk and wiggle some tetrominoes around and do a decent job, make it a few levels up, but the elite – the best at what they do – go in with a gameplan, juggling the randomised pieces to fit exactly as needed.
I can see this week that I’m set up for a nice thanatifóro tetrágono – a fatal fourway for the ages – and the other three definitely know how to play the game. They’re wiggling the pieces and keeping their stack of blocks below the halfway mark, thinking they can keep it up indefinitely and eventually take the long-term win.”
[Ordell shows us as he goes, wiggling the joystick and sending the pieces roughly to where he needs them, keeping a solid score.]
There is a time and a place for long term wins, but in the intensity and urgency of the Tap Room ring, there is only short term, and whilst DTR, Doubt and Sharkman know how to play the game, they are playing it all wrong, each of them covering a 1 block wide gap with the square tetromino, blocking off their options.
Meanwhile, I’m the elite gamer, slotting pieces where they best fit, eliminating rows constantly and keeping the game only one or two rows from the bottom, until, sooner than you even realise, the game is over and there is only one winner – the master tactician, the number one on the leaderboard, Ordell Terminus. And just like our friend Alexey, I find four to be the perfect balance between challenging and frustration.”
[Now, by being precise with his movements, Ordell has cleared the board and won the level and is literally, as well as figuratively, number one on the leaderboard.]
“Before Red Snow, I’m sure DTR would have agreed, his Family consisting back then of just the four members – but now, with the birth of Noah, his family has grown, and four no longer represents his perfect balance.
Before Ring King, I’m sure Sharkman and Doubt would have agreed, their Asylum consisting of four members – but now, with the end of Smiley and the rebirth of Lee Crowley, followed by his defection, their numbers dwindled, and four no longer represents their perfect balance.
Just like Alexey hit the sweet spot with four pieces, I will hit my sweet spot in this Fatal Fourway, and let anyone who stands in my way take note – I always finish what I started, so let us start our game of Tetris.”
[Ordell slots another coin into the machine and silently continues, again moving each piece exactly where it needs to be.]