A Moscow scientist invents the addictive block game, unwittingly changes the American workplace

It was addictive, it was disruptive, it was everywhere. In the late ’80s, work around the U.S. ground to a halt while the employees…played with blocks. Could Tetris have been a Communist plot?

Almost. The computer game was adapted from a traditional puzzle in 1985 by Moscow scientist Alexey Pajitnov, who named it after the Greek word tetra, meaning “four.” While Pajitnov never received a ruble for his invention (it was “owned” by the Soviet government), he cofounded The Tetris Co. in 1996 to ensure himself a portion of the money. Now Pajitnov toils for Microsoft, for which he created last summer’s The Puzzle Collection. “I think it’s still popular because it’s not related to technology but something in the human brain,” Pajitnov says about Tetris’ uncanny staying power. “And people don’t change as much over the years as technology does.”