MIT junior Justin Yu achieves high score in “Tetris” after recent “space race” update

There’s great news for fans of the classic game “Tetris.” On December 21st, 2023, player Willis Gibson, also known as BlueScuti, reached such an advanced level in a game of Tetris that the game froze. This achievement made national headlines and a video capturing Gibson’s shocked reaction went viral.

MIT News has an interesting story about another player, Justin “Fractal” Yu, a computer science and engineering major from Dallas, Texas. Yu won the 2023 Classic Tetris World Championships and became the top-ranked player in the world. In a recent interview, Yu revealed that he and Gibson were aware of each other’s attempts to crash the game and were actually in active competition at the time. Yu also accomplished the same game crash on January 3rd, becoming the second person ever to achieve this feat. The livestream of Yu’s run on YouTube has garnered over 600,000 views and received many congratulations from the Tetris gaming community and casual observers.

Q: Congratulations on hitting the game crash! How long have you been working on this?

A: I’ve been working on this for about five years since I started playing the game. After the world championships, I took a day to make many offline attempts, which brought me to about 1,100 lines. Then, I decided to go for the game crash objective when I had free time. Coincidentally, just as I started my first streamed attempt, I learned that BlueScuti had broken another world record. We both then decided to turn it into a competition.

Q: Did anyone else know about this race?

A: This is not a widely known story, but we were both giving our all because there was a threat of someone else achieving it before us. The intense competition lasted for about two days. However, during one game, I briefly held the record for the highest score but died at around 1,400 lines due to a dark level. The issue was that I didn’t have a universal remote controller at home to adjust my TV’s brightness settings. The next day, I bought one and set up the monitor. But by then, BlueScuti had already reached a thousand lines and eventually got the game crash. It felt like the race was over before it even began, but it was an incredibly concentrated effort from both of us.

Q: So, this has been a long-term pursuit?

A: Yes, we have been working towards this achievement for a while. We also play in other modes and continuously improve our skills. Now that the pressure of being the first person to achieve game crash is off, I might want to try something different. One potential interesting achievement is going beyond game crash. The setups we used guaranteed the crash at the same time, but there are other setups that theoretically could reach level 255 and beyond.

Q: How would that happen?

A: The levels in the game are stored in single bytes. If you add one level beyond its capability, instead of crashing, the level counting mechanism fails, and the level returns to zero while your score remains high.

Q: Is this like the Y2K of Tetris?

A: Yes, you can say that. The game wraps back to zero. Starting at level 249, the game throws everything at you, and every piece you place may result in a crash unless you make extremely skilled moves. However, we haven’t even reached halfway yet, so there’s a lot to do in the meantime.

Q: Why do you think these achievements are happening now? Is it because of the rolling technique you mentioned in a previous chat?

A: It’s partly due to the rolling technique, but it’s also because we both decided to go for this achievement simultaneously. Our community has had skilled players who could have done this for over a year, but playing for 40 minutes straight isn’t something most players enjoy. It was the fact that two players decided to pursue it at the same time and compete that brought the achievements and media attention. I believe more top players from our community will now feel inspired to attempt new things.

Q: Do you see the media attention as a positive for the community?

A: It’s hard to say at this point. While it’s great to see the game finally being beaten, it might send a message to new players that it’s already been accomplished. However, there are still many other achievements to pursue, like the idea of a perfect game of Tetris. So, despite some concerns, I hope the media attention will ultimately be beneficial. Achievements like reaching the maximum possible displayable score are still challenging and continue to drive our community.

Overall, Yu’s interview provides insight into the competitive world of Tetris and the dedication required to achieve groundbreaking milestones. The young talent of players like BlueScuti showcases the love and passion they have for the game, inspiring others to pursue their own passions and challenges.

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