Blue Scuti

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13-Year-Old From Oklahoma Achieves The Unthinkable Feat of Beating Tetris

Abhimannu Das
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Highlights
Willis Gibson aka Blue Scuti has also earned his claim to fame as one of the greatest players of all time.
Gibson achieved level 157 in Tetris, a feat that was previously accomplished only by bots.

For decades, Tetris held a notorious record of being “unbeatable” and only bots managed to truly beat the game. But last month, the game’s unbeaten reign against humans came to an end at the hands of a 13-year-old Oklahoma boy named Willis “Blue Scuti” Gibson. In a feat of skill and perseverance, Gibson pushed the boundaries of the original NES Tetris so far, that he broke the game itself.

Blue Scuti Achieved Level 157, A Tetris Feat Never Achieved By Humans

Blue Scuti’s mastery of Tetris helped him achieve the unthinkable - beating the game. By level 157, his lightning-fast rotations and line clears were outpacing the game's coding. The tetrominoes, normally falling in a controlled cascade, began glitching and teleporting. Finally, at the infamous "kill screen" – a point where the game's limitations crash it – Tetris met its match. The screen froze, Gibson erupted in triumph, and the gaming world witnessed a historic moment. This is a feat that has never been achieved by a human since the game’s creation in 1985 by Alexey Pajitnov.

"What happens is you get so far that the programmers never expected you to," Gibson explained during his playthrough. Before him, only artificial intelligence had ever breached the kill screen. But Gibson, a human playing with pure strategy and focus, had conquered the seemingly unconquerable.

When and How Did Tetris Become a Competitive Game?

Competitive Tetris is very detached from the casual Tetris you might remember, with players pushing the limits of human reaction time and strategic thinking to achieve scores that seem practically impossible.

Hypertapping was the first innovation that helped players push the boundaries of the game. Players tap the directional buttons incredibly fast (more than 10 times a second) to subtly adjust piece placement, maximizing efficiency and speed. Players like EricICX used this technique to break world records and became the first to make it to Level 38.

Hypertapping had its limits in Classic Tetris, only allowing players to advance to around level 38, relying heavily on precise placements and a bit of luck with the game pieces. To take the game to the next level, a significant innovation was necessary. Christopher "CheeZ" Martinez delivered exactly that with his invention of the rolling technique. This breakthrough smashed previous limitations and dramatically expanded the possibilities for Tetris players, essentially making the sky the limit.

Players like EricICX began clearing Level 140 consistently, setting new world records consistently since they had mastered the block drop speed. After level 29, the block drop speed reaches its maximum in the original NES version of Tetris and stays the same until the end of the game. So once players mastered clearing levels at this speed, the end game was pushed to a new theoretical high.

The Significance of Level 157 in Tetris

Beyond level 138, a programming quirk leads to color palette glitches. Block colors become inaccurate and blend into the background, further obscuring vision and making quick judgment calls even more challenging. Imagine trying to play a game of chess where half the pieces constantly change color and blend into the board!

Level 157 - Tetris

Blue Scuti

The developers of Tetris never anticipated players reaching such high levels. As a result, the game wasn't built to handle the extreme situations that arise at level 157. This leads to various glitches, visual distortions, and ultimately, the infamous "kill screen" crash. The kill screen crash is the point where players consider Tetris truly beaten.

Scuti plays on the original version of the game which has a capped score counter. He maxed out the score counter at level 26 and he blazed through hundreds of lines without breaking a sweat. The biggest challenges come at two levels that fans have named Dusk and Dawn.

These levels have reduced contrast and have multiple ghost pieces which can be difficult to see, especially at the speed at which these professionals are playing. However, after some long hours of practice both Blue Scuti and his opponent EricICX managed to get past the initial Dusk and Dawn levels but things got very tricky.

Levels 146 and 148 was the final hurdle before things got a little easier for Scuti. But at level 154 he made a mis-drop which could have immediately ended his run. He managed to turn things around and met all the conditions necessary to get the kill screen but he immediately made 3 mis-drops and he was frantically trying to keep his run alive. And then it happened! The infamous kill screen appeared and he did the unthinkable - he became the first human to beat Tetris.

How Blue Scuti Managed The Impossible

His journey to Tetris immortality wasn't just a matter of hours spent playing. Gibson, known in the Tetris community as "Blue Scuti," has been honing his skills since he was 11, dedicating 3-5 hours daily to mastering the game's intricacies. He's a seasoned competitor, the youngest player to ever reach the Classic Tetris World Championship podium in 2021.

But this victory holds a deeper meaning for Gibson. He dedicated it to his father, who passed away just a few months before he broke the game. "I know he would be so proud," Gibson said in an interview with fellow streamer ITZsharky1, his voice thick with emotion.

Gibson's feat is a testament to the power of human dedication and skill. He didn't just play Tetris; he dissected it, understood its every quirk, and exploited its weaknesses. In doing so, he not only conquered a classic game but also etched his name in gaming history as the first human to tame the untamable Tetris.

Want to Get Into Competitive Tetris?

If you are feeling inspired by Blue Scuti, there are plenty of resources available. Start with classic Tetris emulators and practice basic techniques. Online communities offer tips, tutorials, and friendly competitions to hone your skills.

Several Tetris games include multiplayer modes like Sprint and Ultra, providing platforms to test your mettle against other players. Here are some of the competitive formats of the game:

Classic Tetris: This is the OG, played on the NES or emulators. The scoring system is straightforward, rewarding players for clearing lines and tetrises. World Championships like the Classic Tetris League (CTL) are prestigious events in this category.

Sprint: Players race to clear 40 lines as fast as possible, utilizing advanced techniques like T-spins and hypertapping. The Classic Tetris Championship (CTC) features intense sprint battles.

Ultra: This marathon mode tests endurance and strategy. Players aim to score as many points as possible within a set time limit (usually 10 minutes). The Tetris Effect multiplayer has become a popular platform for Ultra competitions.

Other Great Tetris Players to Check Out

Justin "Fractal" Yu: The reigning Classic Tetris World Champion (2023), known for his incredible speed, consistency, and mastery of classic techniques.

Harry Hong: A legendary figure in the Tetris community, holding numerous records and titles in Classic Tetris. He's known for his innovative strategies and calm demeanor under pressure.

Jonas Neubauer: Another Tetris veteran with multiple championship titles to his name. He's known for his precise control and ability to adapt to different playing conditions.

Kazuhiko "Kazu" Yanagihara: Arguably the most dominant Sprint player of all time, holding numerous world records and consistently topping leaderboards. His T-spin skills and reaction time are unparalleled.

Diao Shiyu: A young Chinese player who has emerged as a major force in Sprint. He's known for his aggressive style and creative T-spin setups.

FeuerStorm: A veteran player from the Netherlands with a reputation for his innovative strategies and clutch performances in tournaments.

Thom "Hydr0" Fahlstedt: Known for his marathon endurance and strategic stacking, Hydr0 is a consistent top performer in Ultra competitions.

Wumbo Jumbo: A rising star in the Ultra scene, known for his unorthodox stacking methods and ability to pull off high-scoring combos.

S2K: A Japanese player known for his aggressive stacking style and ability to maintain high speeds for extended periods.

Willis Gibson aka Blue Scuti has also earned his place among these other Tetris greats. He’s the Tetris slayer, the boy who proved that even in a world of pixels and algorithms, human ingenuity can still reign supreme.


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Abhimannu is a PC esports writer at AFK Gaming. With over seven years of experience in esports journalism, he has worked on a myriad of games and their ecosystems including Valorant, Overwatch and Apex Legends.

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