Tetris is a bunch of squares falling in a line. It is the most straightforward video game of all time. There is no room for anything scandalous. Yet, “A Theme,” the 80’s arcade earworm is a classic example of Russian nihilism.
Long before the Game Boy, the maddening theme song originated in an 1861 poem by Nikolay Nekrasov. “Korobeiniki,” titled after the Russian word for “peddler”, builds momentum until it crescendos to a tragic loss. The toetapper’s basic outline is two Russian merchants fall in love while selling their wares. They consummate their new relationship with a one-night stand. The man, now self-assured that he found the right suiter, plans to propose to the woman. While returning to his new future, he encounters a thief who robs and kills him. Game Over.