Just minutes of Tetris playing can reduce cravings for food, sex, drugs, and even sleep by up to one fifth, according to a new study by psychologists at Plymouth University and Queenstown University of Technology.
Tetris already has a pretty impressive track record. The classic block-stacking game was created in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian artificial intelligence researcher. Over its lifetime, it was stolen, illegally copied, and even owned by the Soviet regime. Tetris has basically had a way more thrilling life than all of us. And now it treats cravings, too.
The study gave 31 undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 27 iPods that asked them to report craving targets and strength seven times a day. Participants also noted if they indulged in their craving and whether or not they were under the influence of alcohol.
Participants who played three minutes of Tetris before reporting their cravings again consistently showed “decreased craving strength for drugs (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine), food and drink, and activities (sex, exercise, gaming).” The cravings strengths were reduced from 70% to 56%, according to the paper.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Tetris’ healing powers. Its simple yet captivating premise been shown to decrease food cravings and even act as a treatment for PTSD. This new research indicates for the first time that the game can also be effective in reducing multiple craving types.
Researchers think the effect may be due to Tetris occupying the same imagery-based mental pathways involved in cravings. In other words, Tetris slaps a big, red “Occupied” sign on the brain’s craving processes.
“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity,” said Professor Jackie Andrade. “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 research, published in Science Direct, hopes Tetris will some day serve as a long-term support tool for a variety of craving-based challenges, such as diets and addictions.