In a remarkable performance, 13-year-old Willis Gibson of Oklahoma, known in the online gaming world as “BlueScuti,” has achieved what was once deemed impossible — conquering the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version of Tetris. Accomplished last month, the event has become a significant milestone in the history of competitive gaming.
For decades, Tetris has been associated with the golden age of arcade gaming. The NES version of the game launched in 1989, was notorious for its difficulty, with players struggling to surpass the infamous Level 29. This level, informally referred to as the “kill screen,” was considered the peak of the game’s challenge, pushing the limits of human dexterity, reflexes, and strategic thinking.
34 years of Tetris led to a 13-year-old prodigy making history last month, as he battled through glitched-colour levels and a roll of the dice to 'beat' the game by reaching its "true killscreen", a first for human players. https://t.co/7w2VLu5dSf
— PC Gamer (@pcgamer) January 3, 2024
However, BlueScuti shattered this barrier using advanced techniques like “hypertapping” and “rolling.” He was able to navigate the game’s lightning-fast pace and tricky maneuvers to reach and surpass the level that had blocked every human player for 34 years.
Techniques like hypertapping, introduced in 2011, and rolling, developed by Hector “Fly” Rodriguez, revolutionized how players approached Tetris. These methods enabled gamers to surpass the limitations of traditional controls, allowing them to manage pieces effectively at the game’s highest speeds.
BlueScuti’s accomplishment is made more poignant by the personal challenges he faced. The young gamer dedicated his historic run to his father, who passed away just weeks before his historic achievement.
"I'm gonna pass out. I can't feel my fingers."
13-year-old Willis Gibson, a competitive Tetris player prodigy from Oklahoma, is believed to be the first person to ever "beat" Tetris.
He rocked so hard he froze the game. pic.twitter.com/9XOSu2bvGd
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) January 4, 2024
Throughout the history of the game, players believed that beating the NES version of Tetris was a feat beyond human capability. An AI program named StackRabbit reached the kill screen in 2021, only reinforcing the belief that no human could replicate the feat. StackRabbit was developed by YouTuber Greg Cannon and achieved a record score of more than 102 million with a runtime of an hour and five minutes. Cannon condensed the full run into a 25-minute video.
The speeds at which StackRabbit ran are considered incomprehensible for human capabilities. The AI program trained itself extensively to reach its record score. Cannon determined that at the kill screen level, the game inevitably crashes because of the extreme pressure the speed of the game puts on its processor. As a result, the game never technically reaches a conclusion but crashes when it is unable to make score calculations.
In the purely merit-based world of competitive gaming, BlueScuti’s achievement will undoubtedly be remembered as a landmark event. The teen has already said he will work to reclaim his record in the event anyone else is able to duplicate his effort.