Tetris Has Amazing Psychological Benefits For Players

August 16th 2015

Laura Donovan

If you're looking to cut down on snacks or stop overeating, you might want to consider playing Tetris. A new study in the international journal Addictive Behaviors reveals that playing Tetris for only three minutes can reduce your cravings for food and potential vices such as drugs, coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes by 20 percent. The downside, however, is that the research also found Tetris can lower your libido.

Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, Australia academics conducted the study and found that the benefits of Tetris sustained participants for an entire week, the length of the study. The research sampled 31 participants ages 18 to 27 who were required to play Tetris for three minutes prior to reporting their cravings to the study authors. On just 30 percent of the instances of playing Tetris, participants experienced cravings, and the majority of these cravings were for food and non-alcoholic beverages. Slightly more than 20 percent of cravings were for drugs, coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol. Only 16 percent of the cravings were for sex, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and sleeping.

"Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70 percent to 56 percent," Plymouth University professor Jackie Andrade said in a news release.

"This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating... As a support tool, Tetris could help people manage their cravings in their daily lives and over extended time periods," Andrade said.

Why does Tetris seemingly decrease cravings?

Andrade said in a release that a game such as Tetris appears to use up a lot of brain space and prevent users from thinking about anything else in a vivid manner.

"We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity," she said. "Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time."

The Tetris Effect and other downsides of video games

Last year, researchers in England published a study that found gamers can experience “altered visual perceptions” of reality as a result of hours of gaming. Certain gamers even reported experiencing "distorted versions of real-world surroundings."

Researchers used this study to draw attention to Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP), which is how gaming impacts a person's senses during real world activity.

“In some playing experiences, video game images appeared without awareness and control of the gamers and, in some cases, the images were uncomfortable, especially when gamers could not sleep or concentrate on something else,” the researchers said in their paper. “These experiences also resulted in irrational thoughts such as gamers questioning their own mental health, getting embarrassed, or performing impulsive behaviors in social context.”

Lead study author Mark Griffiths told CBS News that some gamers might be more likely to fall victim to GTP than others.

In 1994, Wired magazine's Jeffrey Goldsmith wrote about The Tetris Effect, a phenomena that happens to gamers when someone spends so much time doing one specific thing that it invades other aspects of their life. For example, a big time Tetris user might dream about the game or thinking about shapes more frequently in real life.

In his piece, Goldsmith said Tetris completely took hold of his life and that he started seeing shapes outside of the game.

"I stayed 'for a week' with a friend in Tokyo, and Tetris enslaved my brain," he wrote. "At night, geometric shapes fell in the darkness as I lay on loaned tatami floor space. Days, I sat on a lavender suede sofa and played Tetris furiously. During rare jaunts from the house, I visually fit cars and trees and people together. Dubiously hunting a job and a house, I was still there two months later, still jobless, still playing... I wondered if Tetris wasn't really some sort of electronic drug - a pharmatronic."