Just one more round. It’s a common refrain among players fighting for supremacy in video games, but I’ve never found the compulsion to be more difficult to shake than with the recently released battle royale game Tetris 99. Sure, I’ve lost sleep to plenty of other games in the past, but something is different with this one.
In the midst of my Fortnite fixation last year I routinely caught myself saying “just one more round” until about midnight or so. Fortunately for my work-life productivity, I knew committing to another go was likely to take anywhere from 15-25 minutes of my time, so it was easy to quit chasing the dragon until tomorrow. Tetris 99, however, is an entirely different beast. Within 30 seconds of your previous failure to best the 98 other tetrimino-obsessed strangers, you can already be competing for an elusive victory against an entirely new set of geometry-thirsty combatants. Even if you make it to the final 10, that’s only about a 5-7 minute commitment, so why not just try one more. I mean, you thought you really had it that time if not for that accidental drop that derailed things. Plus, your Switch is right on your nightstand anyway.
Perhaps more importantly than that, though, is the surprising rush of Tetris 99. This isn’t your standard bliss-inducing Tetris where you’re clearing lines therapeutically. No, this is some serious tachycardia-level shit here. The second that familiar music starts to speed up, your heart can’t help but follow suit. Suddenly, you’re not just laying down blocks, but you’re trying to plan two pieces ahead of time while fending off multiple attackers and attempting to knock-out opponents of your own to power up your clears. It’s chaos, but it’s beautiful. To paraphrase the immortal Dominic Toretto, I live my life a quarter turn at a time. Nothing else matters. For those 10 minutes or less, I’m free.
As of this writing, through nearly 11 hours of gameplay I’ve competed in 133 matches, knocked out 427 foes, been targeted by as many as 9 people at once, cleared 9578 lines, completed 753 tetrises, made 30,321 rotations, and stood victorious a mere two times. In this same timeframe, I’ve also played about 6 hours of the other big shiny new battle royale, Apex Legends. Despite having a great time with the Legends, I can’t tell you a single stat of mine, nor do I really care about my achievements in it. It’s a fun diversion that I likely will never win a match in, but Tetris 99 is something that I genuinely want to be good at. The thrill of my first victory is perhaps unparalleled by any other multi-player gaming achievement I’ve experienced including any of my 50 or so Victory Royales in Fortnite. For 30 brief seconds, my brain felt like I was in the Matrix. I somehow came back from being 2 lines away from elimination to destroying an opponent who had only 2 lines on his board at the time.
I mean, how can you possibly expect me to sleep after that?