Students who do cool things: Eric Caruso ’14, Tetris Grand Master

Don’t even deny that half of that all-nighter at the FriSC was spent on freetetris.org. Some of us are pretty good, some of us suck, but Eric Caruso ’14 is on a completely different level. He is a Tetris Grand Master, one of the highest ranks a player can reach in the online Tetris community. BlogDailyHerald asked him some questions on his mad skills.  Read the interview after the jump! 

BlogDailyHerald: When did you start Tetris-ing?

Eric Caruso: I played as a kid, but I never really put much time into it. But in December 2006, I got a Tetris DS for Christmas— I consider this the beginning of my journey. At the time, I wasn’t too great at it, but I was able to clear Marathon mode on my second try, and I found the multiplayer quite fun as well. I turned to the Internet for guidance on moves I didn’t really understand, and came upon a Tetris community known as Tetris Concept (at the time, it was just about the only high-level Tetris community there was). On the site, most of the Tetris-energy was spent on a series of challenging games called Tetris: The Grand Master (TGM). At that point, TGM didn’t stick with me very much. I tried it, decided it was too hard, and then put it down. I didn’t pick it up again until December 2008. That’s when I remembered the challenge TGM posed, and decided it would be worth trying to see how far I could get. It was at this point that I suppose my foray into the world of “professional” Tetris began.

BDH: How did you get so good at it? Does practice really make perfect?

EC: When I began playing TGM, I was playing for two or three hours a day. This sounds like a lot, but I was in high school, didn’t have too much to do, and didn’t have a car, so it was hard for me to go anywhere… I spent a good chunk of time playing Tetris instead. I know it sounds kind of lame when I put it that way, but I treated it like it was a sport, in a sense. After I achieved the title, I didn’t put so much time into it, but I at least try to maintain my skill.

BDH: How long did it take you to make the ranks?

EC: It took me about five months to become a Grand Master after beginning TGM. Since then, my records have improved, and I got the rank of Death Master in the second TGM game over the summer. After playing much Shirase mode (the fastest mode on Tetris: The Grand Master 3), I decided I should train my speed for multiplayer. When I’m pushing as hard as I can, I can throw down about 200 pieces per minute, and my record for clearing 40 lines (a standard “Sprint”) is in 30.58 seconds. The world record at the time of writing is 22.90 seconds (set by player LapSiLap of Sweden).

BDH: What do you like about Tetris?

EC: The thing that most people don’t see in Tetris is a game that has a lot of depth. Most people look at the game and see a bunch of falling blocks and don’t quite understand how much thought went into its design. TGM proved to me that even a game this simple could be pushed to the level where people can spend years just trying to attain the highest ranks. Unlike other official games, the game was designed to be difficult, but in the right ways. I suppose it was because of this that I came to see Tetris as more than a game of falling blocks. There’s a certain elegance to it that can only be seen if you look hard enough.

BDH: How does it feel to be ranked in Tetris?

EC: In some sense, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, but in others, I feel like I could have put all the time to use for something a little more… useful? I don’t really regret doing it, though. It has been a fun time at the very least. I’ve become a respected member of two communities (Tetris Concept and HardDrop) in the process, and it has taught me a lot, from various aspects of coding to probability to spatial reasoning. In the end, I guess it’s no different than any other sort of professional gaming, except that I don’t actually make any money. Oh, well!

 

You can find Eric on Tetris Friends, under the name TC_Zircean, or in NullpoMino as Zircean.  The video embedded above shows him clearing 40 lines in 32.78 seconds.

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