Geek Interview: Tetris Creators Describe AppleTV+ Movie As Adventure Of Their Lives, But On Steroids

Mention Tetris and a wave of falling blocks, and nostalgia, is likely to hit you. Perhaps it was the first game you remember playing as a child, or the first handheld you got as a gift. Maybe it’s the memories of all those nights playing it on the GameBoy underneath the blanket when you should be sleeping but for Tetris creators Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov, it was a whirlwind adventure of never-ending negotiations, run-ins with the law, and a success story that set them for life. 

“First of all, I was determined. Yes, I was naive. I didn’t know how much trouble I could possibly be getting into, and maybe that’s what gave me the courage to actually go do the crazy things that I did but looking back on it, it was an adventure,” said Rogers in an interview with Geek Culture. 

“It was just an adventure and how often do you get to have an adventure? I mean, a real adventure. This is like the biggest adventure I was ever on in my life.”

Henk Rogers (left) and Alexey Pajitnov (right).

A Dutch video game designer and entrepreneur, Rogers, 69, is best known as the guy who secured the rights to distribute the Russian game Tetris on video game consoles and brought Tetris to the GameBoy in the late 80s. Today, he is the managing director of The Tetris Company with Pajitnov, the Russian computer engineer who designed and developed the game behind the Iron Curtain. The pair met in the Soviet Union in 1988 when Rogers was hoping to secure worldwide distribution rights to the game and the rest, as one can say, is history. 

Now, 39 years after the game’s creation in 1984, Rogers’ and Pajitnov’s adventure is getting the movie treatment from Apple TV+. Tetris takes viewers across various cities, introduces many other key parties involved in obtaining global rights, and disputes over rights, for the game, and adds in some spy stuff from the then-Russian security agency, KGB. It’s a game origin story that has never been told in such a manner, so much so that Pajitnov would describe it as a “thriller on steroids”. 

“I’m very proud that our very personal [story] was able to make such a thriller, such an exciting story. Thriller on steroids!” laughed Pajitnov, 67. 

“There’s so many countries and so many interesting characters involved in the story. You know, most of the games start someplace and they end someplace, and this one went from the Soviet Union to Hungary to England to California to Japan, and then I went to Moscow so I think the origin story of this game is more interesting than most other games,” explained Rogers. 


Tetris is so much more than an origin story of the game, or a video-game thriller movie to entertain masses. For Pajitnow, it’s the opportunity to educate the world about the video game industry in the Soviet Union at the time and how their game had created a future for his home country. Whilst Pajitnow tried to stray away from talking politics throughout the interview, he did note that Tetris is a wonderful reminder of a good time in the Soviet Union, and how it had contributed to the joy of many people all over the world. 

“In my perspective, this is an important theme for the movie – how the future came to our life – because in 89, the very first game just appeared, just started to show up. There was no game industry as an industry. it just was incredible. It was a future and how the future was born and started developing,” said Pajitnov. 

“That time was a very encouraging time. Now it’s a very dark time for Russia now and unfortunately, it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen with this awful, evil and dark criminal war going on, so it’s good that the movie comes out now and reminds others about the very light pages of the history of my country.” 


As for Rogers, his friendship with Pajitnov was an important theme he wanted explored in Tetris. After all, it was the friendship and trust he built with Pajitnow that earned him the game’s rights at the end of the day. The friendship later bloomed into a working relationship as well with the two eventually starting up The Tetris Company in 1996, allowing Pajitnov to start making money from the sales of Tetris too. 

“I wanted to get through the depths of our friendship. I’m amazed that they were able to take a story which actually took about a year and a half, and squeezed it into two hours and they were able to capture the emotion that I felt when I went to the Soviet Union – this is magic,” shared Rogers. 

The two are still as close now as they were before, despite their obvious differences. 

“Alexey and I couldn’t be more different. You know he wants everything planned and I want to just go for it. You know we traveled to Europe together and we did one day Alexey, one day me so all planned and just go and adventure! That’s the fun part because if we were exactly the same it would be kind of boring, but whenever we’re in the same jurisdiction and same area like Seattle or New York, every other day a bottle of wine, the two of us, we spend a couple hours. We don’t have to do this, but we do,” added Rogers. 


Even to this day, Rogers and Pajitnov can still recall the start of their journey, and what it was like playing Tetris on the GameBoy for the first time. Spoiler alert – they were not exactly pleased. The resulting game did not turn out how they expected it to be, and after all the trouble they had gone through to land console rights, Pajitnov can’t help but feel disappointed. 

“My original impression was very troubling because I expected something colorful, enjoyable and whatever and, and then GameBoy was a much more adult kind of object than I expected. I expected something more childish, but it’s for adults. Later I really appreciated it but my first impression was rather disappointing,” confessed Pajitnov. 

“They had a buggy version of Tetris, the very first one. Then they fixed it and everything became better so my story with the GameBoy is rather difficult, but Henks’ is much better.” 

Tetris Apple Taro Egerton

“I don’t know. I got to see the Tetris version Nintendo sent to me and I had told them that I have to get approval from the Russians in order to let them publish it, and I played and it’s like ‘Is something wrong?’” recalled Rogers. 

“The pieces are not random, they’re supposed to be random. One in seven chances for each piece to come out, so I got my team I said, ‘Count the number of pieces that’s coming out, play it’ and then we found that there was a big spike – I forget which piece, might have been the L piece or whatever – it was coming out twice as much as it’s supposed to so,” he explained.

“I said ‘We can’t approve this because the pieces are not random!’. Nintendo sent their programmer over to Yokohama where my office was and we spent, I don’t know, an hour fixing their random number generator until the pieces were random.” 

In Tetris, Rogers is played by 33-year-old actor Taron Egerton and while he had no say in who was cast, he did have a little bit of input to how he would like to be portrayed, and watching Egerton play a part of his life was an “out of body experience.”

“I first met him (Egerton) virtually and we spent about an hour talking so that he could understand a little bit about what kind of person I am. I gathered at that point he’s gonna do a great job because he’s getting it. He was a little cowboy in the movie, more than me, but I really enjoyed meeting him,” said Rogers. 

“It’s a little strange. Strange but fun you know what I’m saying? There are a bunch of things that I would never do that he did but then there’s a bunch of things that I did that he doesn’t get to do in the movie. It’s fun to watch.”