Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

“You are a Tetris master.”

with 2 comments

I’m a decent writer. At least, I’d like to think so. I’m not nearly as good as I want to be, of course, but I write nice, clean prose, know how to structure a short story, chapter, or novel, and occasionally get paid for it. And yet it’s really hard work. I write fewer drafts than I once did, but every paragraph is still the result of endless revision, and the process can leave me feeling pretty drained. As a result, there are times, when I’m struggling with yet another intractable sentence, when I look back fondly on the only talent that seemed to come to me naturally. That’s right: years ago, in my more youthful days, I was a Tetris master.

Looking back, I suspect that there must have been a painful apprenticeship somewhere along the way, after I first got Tetris for the beloved Nintendo Entertainment System, but if there was, I don’t remember it. All I know is that I was really good at Tetris. To this day—and it’s embarrassing to admit this—it remains the only thing in the world I can do well without trying. And there was even one afternoon, when I was probably eleven or twelve, when I made my parents take a blurry Polaroid photo of a high score and send it to Nintendo Power. I never knew what happened next, until one day, about a year ago, I stumbled across this astonishing page from the 1998 edition of the Twin Galaxies Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records:

Yep, that’s me, with a score of 446,166. And a few lines above, yep, that’s Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, making this the only time Wozniak and I have been mentioned in the same context. (At least to my knowledge.) Which is why it pains me to confess that I’m in the Twin Galaxies record book under false pretenses: my high score was achieved on the home NES console, but it was somehow misfiled under Game Boy, which means that I’m ranked significantly higher than I should have been. (If I’d been classified correctly, I still would have made the Twin Galaxies book, but several dozen spots lower down—and I wouldn’t have been anywhere near the Woz, who takes his Tetris very seriously.)

Anyway, I’ve long since retired from Tetris, but the allure remains. A few Thanksgivings ago, at my in-laws’ house, I picked up a controller for the first time in maybe a decade, and racked up a decent score of 351,499.  Afterward, I wanted to bring the console home, but my wife nixed the idea, probably for good reason. (Having an NES console in the house would quickly bring my writing career to an ignominious close.) Yet there are times when I can’t help but wonder what might have been. And while I’ll never be as good as this guy, I still feel nostalgic for the one pursuit at which I was, for one brief, shining moment, a natural. If only I could do it for a living…

Written by nevalalee

April 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

2 Responses

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  1. Even with all of the “convincing”, it’s hard to be convinced.

    I have to work hard at it.

    I don’t like working that hard.

    I just go with what feels right and that’s it.


    April 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm

  2. You could have been doing Jeremy Iron’s part. Why not?


    April 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm

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