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Until Now, Only AI Could Beat Nintendo’s Tetris. Enter This 13-Year-Old Kid.

Key Takeaways

  • A teenager from Oklahoma reached the “kill screen” on Tetris.

  • He was the first human to ever reach the screen.

  • Only artificial intelligence had gotten that far before.

A teenager from Oklahoma became the first human ever to reach Tetris’ true “kill screen” this week — a feat that only artificial intelligence had achieved before.

Thirteen-year-old Willis Gibson was stunned when he hit the kill screen — when a player’s screen freezes because they’ve exceeded the game’s functional limit.

His score read “999999,” and he’d reached Level 157. When he hit the kill screen, the game said Gibson had reached Level 18 because its code wasn’t meant to advance that high, The New York Times reported.

Gibson, who goes by the handle “Blue Scuti,” uploaded a video of the game — which he played on December 21 — to YouTube on Tuesday.

“Oh, my god,” Gibson exclaimed as the game froze, slumping over in his chair. “Yes.”

“I’m going to pass out,” he said. “I can’t feel my fingers.”

For years, the game’s “max-out” limit was thought to be Level 29, which is when Tetris was believed to reach its highest possible speed. Competitive player Thor Aackerlund made headlines in the gaming community when he reached Level 30 in 2011, according to The New Yorker.

He did so by using a technique known as “hypertapping,” which players use to get past the brick wall at Level 29, Ars Technica reported.

The outlet said two other players used the tactic to reach Levels 35 and 38, and by 2022, one arcade player used a new technique, “rolling,” to reach a record-breaking Level 146.

But until Gibson’s achievement last month, only AI could reach the true kill screen, with one bot reaching Level 237 two years ago.

Vince Clemente, the Classic Tetris World Championship president, told The Times that what Gibson did has “never been done by a human before.”

“It’s basically something that everyone thought was impossible until a couple of years ago,” he added.

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