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The Story of Tetris: Henk Rogers (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 22nd 2009

SM: Will the game of Tetris itself evolve?

HR: I think of a game as a contest of wills between people. If you go back to the original Tetris, it is more like a solitaire game. The next phase of Tetris, which we continue to develop, allows you to play it against another player.

Within the game itself we are moving in the direction of team Tetris. We like to see six or seven players going against another team of six or seven players. In my mind the game play is similar to rugby where one person has the ball. In Tetris one person will be playing and attacking and the other players, while playing Tetris, are not attacking. They will be defending the attacking player. If the attacker gets into too much trouble they pass the ball to another player who becomes the attacker.

I think that we have a lot of interesting ideas to help make Tetris a team sport. We can then play college versus college, city versus city, and country versus country.

SM: You have an immense passion for Tetris. From your point of view how do you define it? How do you feel about it?

HR: It is fascinating. I am deeply involved in the evolving part of the game design. I am a game designer and spend a lot of my time thinking about how to make this game playable by more people. That is a fascinating thing. We still have not gotten to the end. I am still very interested.

Tetris is just one of my businesses. I have another company that does digital photo management. I have another company which is sort of like a Second Life. I have a foundation to end the use of carbon-based fuel. I am doing a lot of things other than Tetris, which I think lets me spend the right amount of energy. If you spend too much time on it you can get tired of it. I am not too close to it that I will get burned out. It is still fascinating.

SM: Tetris is a very interesting story. I do know that even though I am not a gamer, Tetris is the one game that I did get addicted to.

HR: You and everybody else. Here is a scenario that happens to me all the time. I will get on the plane and someone will ask me what I do for a living. I will tell them that I am a video game designer and they always say, “Oh, I don’t play video games”. So I tell them, “Well, you might know this game called Tetris”, and the response is always “Oh! I have played Tetris!”

SM: Can you tell me quickly about your foundation?

HR: Four years ago I had a heart attack. As I was on my way to the hospital I was thinking, “I can’t die yet, I still have things to do!” Afterwards I had time to think about what I wanted to accomplish before I died. My first mission in life is to end the use of carbon-based fuel.

SM: Where did that passion come from?

HR: A lot of things. In Hawaii we spend $6 billion a year on oil. It is nasty economically. The thing that really bothered me is that because of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the ocean, the acidity of ocean water is increasing at a rate which could kill all the coral by 2050. That to me is a crime because you can look back at fossil history for millions of years and know what happened to these islands by the coral.

Here, in my lifetime, we are going to kill all the coral? That is unacceptable. I do not want that to be my generation’s legacy. I want my children to be able to see it in places other than in pictures, books and videos.

There are probably many things like that. A third of the world’s seafood comes from coral based eco-systems. Take away the coral and it becomes a desert. You can look at it as a thing of beauty, but it is also a huge economic disaster if we destroy a third of the fish in the ocean.

We have an organization called the Blue Planet Foundation through which we are working in Hawaii to end our addition to fossil fuels. We recently wrote a declaration of independence from fossil fuels, and we are getting politicians lined up come on board. We are working with the electric companies and everybody else in Hawaii to try to change our energy future. Once we do it in Hawaii, we can do it in other places.

SM: That is very noble. I wish you all the best. It has been great talking with you.

This segment is part 7 in the series : The Story of Tetris: Henk Rogers
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