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Alexey Pajitnov
Алексей Пажитнов
Alexey Pajitnov GDC 2024 (cropped).jpg
Pajitnov in 2024
Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov

(1955-04-16) April 16, 1955 (age 69)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
  • Soviet Union (until 1991)
  • Russia
  • United States
Alma mater Moscow Aviation Institute
Employer Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre
The Tetris Company
Known for Creator of Tetris
  • First Penguin Award – Game Developers Choice Awards (2006)
  • LARA – Der Deutsche Games Award [de] (2009)

Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov (born April 16, 1955) is a Russian computer engineer and video game designer who is best known for creating, designing, and developing Tetris in 1985 while working at the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre under the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union (now the Russian Academy of Sciences). After Tetris was released internationally in 1987, he released a sequel in 1989, entitled Welltris.

In 1991, he moved to the United States and later became a U.S. citizen. In 1996, Pajitnov founded The Tetris Company alongside Dutch video game designer Henk Rogers. Pajitnov did not receive royalties from Tetris prior to this time, despite the game's high popularity.

Early life

Pajitnov was born to Russian parents, who were both writers, his father was an art critic, his mother was a journalist who wrote for both newspapers and a film magazine. It was through his parents that Pajitnov gained exposure to the arts, eventually developing a passion for cinema. He accompanied his mother to many film screenings, including the Moscow Film Festival. Pajitnov was also mathematically inclined, enjoying puzzles and problem solving.

In 1967, when he was 11 years old, Pajitnov's parents divorced. For several years, he lived with his mother in a one-bedroom apartment owned by the state. The two were eventually able to move into a private apartment at 49 Gertsen Street, when Pajitnov was 17. He later went on to study applied mathematics at the Moscow Aviation Institute.


In 1977, Pajitnov worked as a summer intern at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Once he graduated in 1979, he accepted a job there working on speech recognition at the Academy's Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre. When the Computing Centre received new equipment, its researchers would write a small program for it in order to test its computing capabilities. According to Pajitnov, this "became [his] excuse for making games". Computer games were fascinating to him because they offered a way to bridge the gap between logic and emotion, and Pajitnov held interests in both mathematics and puzzles, as well as the psychology of computing.

Searching for inspiration, Pajitnov recalled his childhood memories of playing pentominoes, a game in which the user creates pictures using its shapes. Remembering the difficulty he had in putting the pieces back into their box, Pajitnov felt inspired to create a game based on that concept. Using an Electronika 60 in the Computing Centre, he began working on what would become the first version of Tetris. Building the first prototype in two weeks, Pajitnov spent longer playtesting and adding to the game, completing it on June 6, 1985. This primitive version did not have levels or a scoring system, but Pajitnov knew he had a potentially great game, since he could not stop playing it at work.

The game attracted the interest of coworkers like fellow programmer Dmitri Pevlovsky, who helped Pajitnov connect with Vadim Gerasimov, a 16-year-old intern at the Soviet Academy. Pajitnov wanted to make a color version of Tetris for the IBM Personal Computer, and enlisted the intern to help. Gerasimov created the PC version in less than three weeks, and with contributions from Pevlovsky, spent an additional month adding new features like scorekeeping and sound effects. The game, first available in the Soviet Union, received international releases through Mirrorsoft and Spectrum Holobyte in 1988.

Pajitnov created a sequel to Tetris, entitled Welltris, which has the same principle, but in a three-dimensional environment where the player sees the playing area from above.

Tetris was licensed and managed by Soviet company ELORG, which had a monopoly on the import and export of computer hardware and software in the Soviet Union, and advertised with the slogan "From Russia with Love" (on NES: "From Russia with Fun!"). Because he was employed by the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pajitnov did not receive royalties.

Pajitnov, together with Vladimir Pokhilko, moved to the United States following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and in 1996 founded The Tetris Company with Henk Rogers, which, in combination with the rights reverting to him in 1995 or 1996, finally allowed him to collect royalties from his game. He helped design the puzzles in the Super NES versions of Yoshi's Cookie and designed the game Pandora's Box, which incorporates more traditional jigsaw-style puzzles. Pajitnov and Pokhilko founded the 3D software technology company AnimaTek, which developed the game / screensaver El-Fish.

He was employed by Microsoft from October 1996 until 2005. While there, he worked on the Microsoft Entertainment Pack: The Puzzle Collection, MSN Mind Aerobics and MSN Games groups. Pajitnov's new, enhanced version of Hexic, Hexic HD, was included with every new Xbox 360 Premium package.

In August 2005, WildSnake Software announced that Pajitnov would be collaborating with them to release a new line of puzzle games.

Personal life

Pajitnov moved to the United States in 1991, was naturalized as a U.S. citizen and now lives in Clyde Hill, Washington. He has a wife, Nina, with whom he had two sons named Peter and Dmitri.

Political views

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Pajitnov issued a statement condemning the war and stating that he was "sure that Putin and his hateful regime will fall down and the normal peaceful way of living will be restored in Ukraine and, hopefully, in Russia."


Title Year Platform(s) Role(s)
Tetris 1985 Electronika 60, IBM-PC Original concept
(with Vadim Gerasimov & Dmitry Pavlovsky)
Muddle 1989 Electronika 60, IBM-PC Designer (Published by JV Dialogue)
Welltris 1989 Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Macintosh & ZX Spectrum Designer
(with Andrei Sgenov)
Faces 1990 Amiga, DOS, Macintosh Original concept
(with Vladimir Pokhilko)
Hatris 1990 TurboGrafx-16, Arcade, Game Boy & NES Original concept
Knight Move 1990 Famicom Disk System (Japan) Idealist
Wordtris 1991 DOS, Game Boy, Classic Mac OS, SNES Designer
Yoshi's Cookie 1992 NES, Game Boy, SNES Puzzle Designer
El-Fish 1993 DOS Original concept
(with Vladimir Pokhilko)
Knight Moves 1995 Windows Idealist
Ice & Fire 1995 Windows, Macintosh Original concept
(with Vladimir Pokhilko)
Tetrisphere 1997 Nintendo 64 Contributor
Microsoft Entertainment Pack: The Puzzle Collection 1997 Windows & Game Boy Color Designer
Microsoft Pandora's Box 1999 Windows Designer
Microsoft A.I. Puzzler 2001 Windows Designer
Hexic 2003 Windows Original concept and design
Hexic HD 2005 Xbox 360 Original concept and design
Dwice 2006 Windows Designer
Hexic 2 2007 Xbox 360 Designer
Marbly 2013 iOS Original concept and design

Awards and recognition

In 1996, GameSpot named him as the fourth most influential computer game developer of all time.

In March 2007, he received the Game Developers Choice Awards First Penguin Award. The award was given for pioneering the casual games market.

In June 2009, he received the honorary award at the LARA - Der Deutsche Games Award in Cologne, Germany.

In 2012, IGN included Pajitnov on their list of 5 Memorable Video Game Industry One-Hit Wonders, calling him "the ultimate video game one-hit wonder."

In 2015, Pajitnov won the Bizkaia Award at the Fun & Serious Game Festival.

Pajitnov was portrayed by Russian actor Nikita Yefremov in the 2023 movie Tetris, a dramatised retelling of the licensing bidding war for Tetris in the late 1980s.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Alekséi Pázhitnov para niños

  • BreakThru!, video game endorsed by Pajitnov
  • ClockWerx, video game endorsed by Pajitnov
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