If Tetris Has Taught Me Anything, It’s That Errors Pile Up and Accomplishments Disappear

@AlexeSixx? @_NanooChii? @ Soumi_S? @MissMagdo? @damana?

tetris02Dear Quote Investigator: I have spent hours playing the quasi-hypnotic computer game Tetris. The following astutely funny remark reveals the subversive lesson of the game:

If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.

I have seen this statement tweeted and retweeted many times. Can you determine who first said it?

Quote Investigator: Tracing a recent expression like this is often difficult because the timestamps listed on websites are easy to modify retroactively; hence, those timestamps may be inaccurate. On the other hand, the database of tweets does appear to have reliable dates, and this article will rely on twitter timestamps.

Another complication occurs when an expression is highly mutable. The earliest strong semantic match located by QI appeared in a tweet on March 26, 2011 from the twitter handle Alexandra Melo @AlexeSixx: 1

Life is a Tetris. Do something good, it disappears immediately. But mistakes, they accumulate themselves. In the end everyone loses.

The phrasing above differed from the common modern saying although the underlying meaning matched, and the key term “disappear” was shared. On March 27, 2011 a very similar tweet emanated from the handle rawwwwwwest @_NanooChii, 2 and on April 1, 2011 a similar tweet was sent by Soumi_A @Soumi_S. 3

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

On April 5, 2011 Majdouline @MissMagdo tweeted a variant using the term “errors” instead of “mistakes”: 4

Life is a Tetris Game. Do something good, it disappears immediately. But errors, they accumulate. In the end we lose everything #WTF

On May 29, 2011 the handle Eddie | Traveling @solo_ceReal tweeted a concise instance with a format similar to the modern saying. The quotation marks indicated a disclaimer of credit: 5

“if I learned anything from #Tetris is that errors accumulate and #success disappears ” #goodnight

On June 7, 2011 a Spanish version was tweeted by @Julian_Bernal: 6

si algo m ha enseñad tetris es q los errors siempre se acumulan y los triunfos desaparecen y q cuando menos lo esperas todo llega a su final

On July 21, 2011 @DiogenesPerez tweeted a version with “achievements fade”: 7

If Tetris has taught us anything is that achievements fade while mistakes pile up

The website zoklet.net has a bulletin board system with a message timestamped “08-04-2011, 01:01 AM”. The month is listed first in this stamp, so the date is August 4, 2011. Someone using the handle xippilli posted the following, but QI does not know if the timestamp is accurate: 8

If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.
: (

On August 4, 2011 at 11:31 AM the twitter handle Damana Madden @damana tweeted the following: 9

If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.
1,212 Retweets
260 Favorites
11:31 AM – 4 Aug 11

The number of retweets revealed the popularity of the tweet. Note that the retweet number will change over time.

One day later, on August 5, 2011, the twitter handle ‏@Quincy tweeted a variant of the quotation: 10

The game Tetris taught a life lesson: If you let error’s pile up, your accomplishments disappear.
97 Retweets
19 Favorites
4:02 PM – 5 Aug 11

In a post dated August 2011 the website CultureRamp discussed an image displaying Tetris pieces and the quotation. The website also linked to the image. A reduced-size instance of the image is shown below: 11

This pithy little image has been making the rounds on the internet lately. It’s clever, of course, if a bit oddly formatted (maybe that’s part of the joke), and yet, I can’t help but think that it’s on to something.

culturerampmeme

On the deviantART website a person with the handle osy057 posted a collection of jokes under the title “Joke Journal 2011”. The post was updated several times, and a section labeled “August Update” included the joke: 12

If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.

In a post dated April 4, 2012 the website WeKnowMemes featured the image displaying Tetris pieces and the quotation. 13

In conclusion, this statement evolved over time and has been expressed in many ways. The first semantic match located by QI was dated March 26, 2011. The tweet was from Alexandra Melo @AlexeSixx, but this information is provisional. Additional research may uncover earlier citations.

(Thanks to Joe Rojas-Burke @rojasburke whose inquiry on this topic induced QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to Barry Popik who pushed the earliest citation date back to August 2, 2011. This led QI to expand his search to allow more variation.)

Update History: On December 11, 2017 several tweet citations were added to the article with the following dates: March 26, 2011; March 27, 2011; April 1, 2011; April 5, 2011; May 29, 2011; June 7, 2011; and July 21, 2011.

Notes:

  1. Tweet, From: Alexandra Melo @AlexeSixx, Time: 7:19 PM, Date: March 26, 2011, Text: Life is a Tetris. Do something good, it disappears immediately. But mistakes, they accumulate themselves. In the end everyone loses. (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  2. Tweet, From: rawwwwwwest @_NanooChii, Time: 10:23 PM, Date: March 27, 2011, Text: Life is a Tetris. Do something good, it disappears immediately. But mistakes, they, they accumulate. In the end everyone loses. (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  3. Tweet, From: Soumi_A @Soumi_S, Time: 3:01 PM, Date: April 1, 2011, Text: Life is like Tetris game. Do something good, it disappears immediately. But mistakes, they accumulate. In the end everyone loses. (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  4. Tweet, From: Majdouline @MissMagdo, Time: 2:59 PM, Date: April 5, 2011, Text: Life is a Tetris Game. Do something good, it disappears immediately. But errors, they accumulate. In the end we lose everything #WTF (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  5. Tweet, From: Eddie | Traveling @solo_ceReal, Time: 2:54 AM, Date: May 29, 2011, Text: “if I learned anything from #Tetris is that errors accumulate and #success disappears ” #goodnight (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  6. Tweet, From: Julian Bernal™ MFC @Julian_Bernal Time: 9:12 PM, Date: June 7, 2011, Text: si algo m ha enseñad tetris es q los errors siempre se acumulan y los triunfos desaparecen y q cuando menos lo esperas todo llega a su final (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  7. Tweet, From: Diogenes Perez @DiogenesPerez, Time: 9:05 AM, Date: July 21, 2011, Text: If Tetris has taught us anything is that achievements fade while mistakes pile up, (Accessed on twitter.com on December 10, 2017) link
  8. Website zoklet.net, Bulletin Board message in archive, Path given at top of webpage: “Zoklet.net > Entertainment > Fragyard > The Official Zoklet Tetris Competition”, Subject of discussion: The Official Zoklet Tetris Competition, Handle given for message poster: xippilli, Timestamp of message: “08-04-2011, 01:01 AM” (Accessed zoklet.net on June 30, 2013) link
  9. Tweet, From: Mana @damana, Time: 11:31 AM Date: August 4, 2011, Text: If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear. (Accessed on twitter.com on June 13 2013) link
  10. Tweet, From: Quincy ‏@Quincy, Time: 4:02 PM, Date: August 5, 2011, Text: The game Tetris taught a life lesson: If you let error’s pile up, your accomplishments disappear.
  11. Website CultureRamp, Title: Errors Pile Up and Accomplishments Disappear, Author: L. Rhodes, Date on website: August 2011. (Accessed June 30, 2013) link
  12. Website deviantART, Title of article: Joke Journal 2011, Handle of poster: osy057, Original timestamp of post: “Jul 11, 2011, 2:17:38 PM” (Note that the post has been updated several times; hence, the timestamp is inaccurate), Section: “August Update”. (Accessed osy057.deviantart.com on June 30, 2013) link
  13. Website WeKnowMemes, Title: If Tetris Has Taught Me Anything…, Date on website: April 4, 2012, Caption of picture: If tetris has taught me anything, it is that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear (Accessed weknowmemes.com on June 30, 2013) link