Ecstasy Of Order: The Tetris Masters is about the 2010 Classic Tetris World Championship and follows some of the competitors in the days leading up to the tournament. After the success of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which featured the underdog Steve Wiebe facing off against the “villainous” Billy Mitchell, it is easy for filmmakers to follow this formula and try to find a “good guy” to go up against a “bad guy.” While watching Ecstasy of Order, it is tempting to try to try to pigeonhole the participants into these categories. This is especially the case with Thor Aackerlund who gained some level of fame in his teen years by winning the 1990 Nintendo World Championships by using a special technique to move Tetris pieces faster than normal. Thor has all the makings of a “Billy Mitchell” character: Thor’s fame makes him a legend among long-time competitive Tetris players, he is a bit of a mystery to viewers because he isn’t one of the people that the film follows, and just before the tournament he posts that he has broken the Tetris record but doesn’t offer any proof. I won’t spoil how it turns out but just let me say that Thor’s story is very compelling.
One of the things that I really appreciated about Ecstasy of Order is that not everyone in the film is a straight white man. By following a couple of women (one of whom is a lesbian) and a couple of Asian-Americans, the film shows that the gaming community is broader than most mainstream media coverage would lead you to believe. Additionally, by focusing on a variety of people, the film broadens its appeal by giving viewers a number of people to identify and root for.
The film also goes out of its way to explain Tetris and some of the strategies involved for those who have been living under a rock and don’t know what Tetris is. Some of the information comes off a bit superfluous for those of us who don’t live under rocks but even though the film focuses on the NES version of Tetris, it does mention some of the less well-known versions of Tetris (like an arcade version where all the blocks are invisible). For those who are looking for information on Tetris’s creation, I would recommend tracking down a copy of the tv documentary Tetris: From Russia with Love. Unfortunately it isn’t available on DVD but it is easily found online by searching for the title.
Ecstasy of Order is a compelling documentary with engaging depictions of the tournament competitors and recommended viewing for anyone that liked King of Kong or has binged on Tetris so much that they see falling blocks when they go to sleep. Ecstasy of Order is available on DVD and viewable online from a number of places.
Six Thumbs Up
Tetris pieces fall
Is Thor a villain or not
Watch the film to learn