Tetris may be the perfect game, but the beauty of its play is woefully ephemeral. Worse, the lack of a consistent and robust system for recording and annotating individual tetromino drops has, for decades, stunted serious scholarship.

The problem is clear. Now, Tim Hwang and I have proposed a solution. Presenting 1Yes, Tim presented it two weeks ago. I agreed to a press embargo for that duration. TETRIS-SYTEM, being a recording method for matches of the puzzle-game.


The notation may feel unfamiliar at first, but even a novice Tetris player will quickly get the hang of it. We hope that one day Tetris scholars, like composers flipping through the sheet music of a symphony, will be able to reconstruct the movements and interplay in their mind’s eyes.

1 Yes, Tim presented it two weeks ago. I agreed to a press embargo for that duration.

Published by Parker Higgins

I'm the Director of Special Projects at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and previously led copyright activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I live and work in Brooklyn, New York. more »

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1 Comment

  1. Your notation is suitable only for single-player Tetris.

    You have no notation for garbage lines, multiple players, or existing variants (gravity comes to mind).

    I would propose using superscripts instead of subscripts to reflect rotation: T” or Z’, and the subscript to reflect player number. Then you can have a better picture of what is going on in a multiplayer game.

    Furthermore, omitting i, j, and l from the column numbering is needless because you are using capital letters to reflect the piece names. The system, lacking those characters, makes it more difficult to transition to large or smaller board sizes.

    Finally, you do not include a character for ‘player topped out with this move’, which makes variants where the players continue with a fresh field (such as in Tetris Friends/Facebook Tetris) difficult to note.

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