Turns out playing all of those video games as a kid might not have been a totally bad thing after all. Sorry mom and dad, but after reading this news, we’re going to go ahead and say that our incessant Tetris playing was valid.
The retro game, which has recently enjoyed a resurgence of sorts thanks to its availability on tablets, cell phones and even streaming services, is apparently not just another fun pastime; it’s also key in helping to curb those addictions.
A new study from Plymouth University in the U.K. has shown that playing just three minutes of Tetris a day on a smartphone could help weaken cravings for a variety of substances, including drugs, alcohol, coffee, sex, food and even sleep. And it doesn’t just weaken them by a little bit, either; the study reports it could be by as much as one-fifth.
Professor Jackie Andrade, one of the leads on the study, has a theory on why this could be so.
“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity,” she said. “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.”
For the study, Andrade and her colleagues prompted 31 undergraduates, aged 18-27, with text messages seven times a day to report any cravings they were experiencing. They were also asked to report any cravings without the prompts. Half of that group were asked to play Tetris on an iPod for three minutes before reporting back on their craving levels.
“Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70 per cent to 56 per cent,” Andrade added. “This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating.”
The researchers now believe that Tetris could help out those with addiction issues, including people taking medication. Of course more studies need to be done in order to properly gauge just how effective the method is, and whether it applies to everyone. And it should go without saying that those who believe they have a real problem should contact a professional for help.
As we wait for additional funding to come through, we’re just going to go ahead and play some Tetris the next time we really want that glass of wine and a cheeseburger. Or if you need your Tetris fix now, here you go. You’re welcome.