The development of the characters that are the core of the Tetris franchise are fraught with difficulty. All the characters, from rectagle to square to squiggly bits, have uses that vary depending on the terrain the game assigns them, much like how the battleground of a chess board limits the efficacy of the various pieces. The tetrominoes are devoid of names, pretending to be merely functions, but players of the game quickly develop favourite and imbue them with anthropomorphic qualities.
The genius of the characters is that their colour remains both evocative and without purpose: why Purple and Orange facing each other? Why Green and Red? Obvious connections to the royal purple and the orange of William III (aka William of Orange) linking with the containment of France has obvious historical connotations, the game can also be seen as offering questions regarding gender and marriage in the world of tetris: what pieces fit together? What ones can’t? Is the square always doomed to be a square in actuality as well as symbology? Case in point, “No one ever considers rotating the square piece. Its development is completely overlooked." (Kentari, 2013.)
The other pieces, in rotating, gain a provenance and popularity the square lacks, as clear comment on hetero-normative culture as one could expect. The origin stories of the character vary from game to game, as the piece that arrives first is clearly the first born, followed by others in descending order. If two matching pieces (S,Z or the two sideways Ls) arrive first, tradition considers them a married couple and the pieces that come after to be their children, a fact seldom borne out by how the game often progressive. “The fact that square comes in upside down says a lot about his origins. No one ever notices that," (Chaos, 2013) is also a factor in the squares diminished appeal. That the more popular rectangle has more effect in clearly the board clearly says much about their relationship though the game often leaves it unexplored.
The game creators seem to take little note of the popularity of the characters, though some believe the algorithm determining character advancement and appearance has changed over the years to reflect a changing culture. Some call it a dumbing down of the inherent complexity of a game that forces you to play all the characters as inherently equal despite obviously limits several of them espouse. The extent to which this can be seem as enabling (or disabling) varies from review to review, some arguing that the inclusion of certain pieces – far from (en)forcing gender stereotypes – is clearly indicative of rights for the disabled, or at least the less advantaged pieces. The creators have been strident in their disavowal of such claims, much as the racist and cultural claiming linking the red square to Tiananmen Square were disavowed in the 1990s.
What remains clear is that the advancement of the characters – both as symbols and as more than symbological mythology – owes much to the lens through which they are viewed, much as what each is capable of shifts as the pieces themselves are changed to fit the board. It may be that the pieces are just themselves, changing to match needs even as we ourselves present different faces to the world depending on social situations and how much alcohol we have consumed.