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‘I Can’t Feel My Fingers’: How a 13-Year-Old Gamer Became First Human to ‘Beat’ Classic Video Game Tetris

Gaming Prodigy, 13, Becomes First Human to 'Beat' Tetris
Source: MEGA

For years, players have tried and failed to reach the 'kill screen' rumored to result when the video game reaches its functional limits.

Jan. 9 2024, Published 9:02 a.m. ET

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A 13-year-old gamer from Oklahoma recently achieved the honor of becoming the first human to conquer Tetris, the enormously popular block-stacking game that had previously been dominated only by artificial intelligence.

Willis Gibson accomplished the extraordinary feat by skillfully navigating through level after level of the Nintendo Entertainment System's 1989 version of the game.

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The teen’s relentless pursuit reached an unprecedented point where the game glitched, and the screen froze — a moment within the video gaming community that's considered tantamount to defeating Tetris.

Originally released in November 1989 for the NES 8-bit home video game system, Tetris tasks players with organizing falling geometric shapes to clear rows and prevent them from accumulating to the top, resulting in a "game over."

The game's "standard endless mode" presents increasing speed every 10 lines, with players attempting to reach the elusive "kill screen" that is rumored to occur when the game reaches its functional limits.

According to Popular Science, after clearing between 230 and 290 lines, the speed maxes out on level 29. That is why achieving anything beyond 290 lines was widely deemed functionally impossible for a human player.

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However, in a riveting 42-minute live-streamed video from his YouTube account "Blue Scuti," Gibson shattered the preconceived notion.

Around the 40-minute mark, after clearing an astonishing 1,511 lines, his lightning-fast moves ceased as the screen froze, displaying a perfect score of "999999."

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In a moment of disbelief, Gibson can be seen clutching his head, exclaiming, "Oh my God! Yes!" and expressing his amazement by stating, "I'm gonna pass out" and adding, "I can't feel my fingers."

The teen claimed to have beaten the world record for the highest overall score, level and number of lines cleared.

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Noted video game content creator and competitive Tetris player David Macdonald, known as "aGameScout" on YouTube, reportedly told The New York Times that Gibson has taken the Tetris scene by storm.

Gibson, already a victor in various regional Tetris tournaments and securing third place in the October 2023 Classic Tetris World Championship, intended to compete in another tournament in Waco, Texas.

Having earned approximately $3,000 from Tetris tournaments, the teenager has been sharing his Tetris achievements on YouTube since October 2021. Starting with a video showcasing a 488,000 score at level 21, Gibson's focus on the NES game intensified, attracting over 1,500 subscribers since 2019, as he showcased his prowess in games like Minecraft, Super Mario Bros and Geometry Dash.


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