Seven-time South Bay Tetris world champion builds Internet stardom brick by brick
By Nick Green
A 1980s-era video game has propelled seven-time Classic Tetris world champion Jonas Neubauer into a burgeoning Internet star whose blindingly fast contests are watched on his own channel by paying subscribers from around the world on the gaming app and website Twitch.tv.
The 30-something tasting room manager for Torrance’s Strand Brewing claimed his third consecutive world championship — and seventh overall — last month in Portland, Oregon.
Indeed, during the last seven years competitive video gaming has grown from niche geek hobby into cool mainstream spectator sport — yes, sport, insist devotees — with retro Tetris leading the way.
The deceptively simple, yet addictive video game involves stacking block-shaped tiles as they randomly fall at ever-greater speeds against an opponent, tapping into the human desire to create order from chaos.
If you were unaware of Tetris until now, you probably are virtually alone; Tetris is the world’s top-selling downloaded video game, its place in history cemented by the ubiquitous Nintendo Gameboy that has sold more than 100 million units since its 1989 introduction.
Its modern-day allure — there are newer versions of Tetris, but it’s the classic version that holds the most appeal — involves an element of childhood nostalgia, much like watching a brand-new “Star Wars” movie, but recalling the beloved original at the same time, said Highland Park resident BJ Handelman, a subscriber to Neubauer’s Twitch channel.
“If you grew up playing Tetris, then that’s the Tetris you identify with,” he said. “When I was a kid, everyone knew Tetris, everyone played Tetris. I played Tetris, my parents played Tetris, my grandparents played Tetris.
“(Tetris has) the same allure to watching basketball,” Handelman added. “Everyone knows how to play basketball, but you can’t play basketball like LeBron James. I could never play Tetris like Jonas, but it’s fun watching him do it.”
Indeed, elite Tetris […]