Henk Rogers, Who Brought Tetris to the West, Plans to Save the Planet

Rogers has been fascinated with technology ever since his childhood.

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You may not have heard of the name Henk Rogers before. But without him, the West may not have been introduced to the world’s most popular video game, Tetris. Rogers secured the distribution rights for the groundbreaking puzzle game in 1988, and struck a deal with Nintendo to package the game with the company’s then-revolutionary Game Boy. But more recently, Rogers has his sights set on even greater ambitions – namely, travelling to the moon and Mars, and protecting the Earth from environmental collapse.

Rogers has been fascinated with technology ever since his childhood. He was born in the Netherlands in 1953, and came to the US at 11 years old. As a high school student in New York City, Rogers fell in love with computers, and went on to study computer science at the University of Hawaii. Rogers has joked that he minored in Dungeons and Dragons, as he spent all of his free time as a university student playing the tabletop role-playing game.

In 1988, Rogers made a curious discovery at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – a surprisingly addictive game about organizing patterns of falling blocks.

A combination of Rogers’ main passions – computer science and games – lead to his first mainstream success. In 1976, Rogers moved to Japan to start a family, and in 1984 he released The Black Onyx, a computer game that he had designed, developed, and published. It was the first major computer role-playing game to be published in Japan, and it quickly became a hit, selling 150,000 copies. Players of Rogers’ innovative computer game were tasked with exploring the dungeons underneath the town of Utsoro to find the legendary Black Onyx in order to break a curse that keeps the town shrouded in darkness. The Black Onyx introduced the Japanese market to role-playing video games, and served as an inspiration for future RPGs, a genre which has since grown to dominate the Japanese market.

Rogers went on to find continued success as his company, Bullet Proof Software, published several more computer games. In 1988, Rogers made a curious discovery at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – a surprisingly addictive game about organizing patterns of falling blocks. Rogers immediately recognized the game’s potential and made a trip to Moscow where he met the game’s designer, Alexy Pajitnov. Rogers helped Pajitnov move to the United States, and the two founded The Tetris Company, which to this day is solely responsible for licensing the trademark of the game to developers and publishers.

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While Rogers believes in the importance of saving the planet, he also thinks our species would be foolish to rely on Earth as our only home.

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Later in life, Rogers shifted his focus away from video games towards projects he deemed more important. In 2005, Rogers experienced a heart attack, which led him to re-evaluate his priorities in life and shift the focus of his entrepreneurial career. In 2007, inspired by the natural beauty of the Hawaiian island he had made his home, Rogers established Blue Planet Foundation, an organization with the aim of eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the state in favor of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. As a result of efforts undertaken by this foundation to put pressure on elected officials to transition to clean energy, the state made it a goal to rely on 100% renewable energy sources by 2045. Leading the way by example, Rogers himself has pledged to use only renewable energy sources by 2020 and, with the exception of air travel, he has achieved that goal by taking his ranch and his companies off the grid.

While Rogers believes in the importance of saving the planet, he also thinks our species would be foolish to rely on Earth as our only home. In 2013, Rogers teamed up with University of Hawaii professor Kim Binstead to build HI-SEAS, a facility designed to simulate the experience of living on another planet to prepare humans to eventually relocate to another planet. Roger’s goal is to establish a village on the moon by the end of the next decade to serve as a base to travel to Mars. At HI-SEAS, technology is being developed to re-use finite resources like water and ensure solar energy is leveraged as efficiently as possible.

With his ambitious intentions to bring the species onto other planets, Rogers joins the ranks of other tech visionaries like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Whether Rogers will successfully execute his sky-high ideas remains to be seen. But given the monumental challenges our planet faces today, it is clear that big ideas like Rogers’ are what will drive humanity’s success into the future.

While Rogers believes in the importance of saving the planet, he also thinks our species would be foolish to rely on Earth as our only home.

Later in life, Rogers shifted his focus away from video games towards projects he deemed more important. In 2005, Rogers experienced a heart attack, which led him to re-evaluate his priorities in life and shift the focus of his entrepreneurial career. In 2007, inspired by the natural beauty of the Hawaiian island he had made his home, Rogers established Blue Planet Foundation, an organization with the aim of eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the state in favor of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. As a result of efforts undertaken by this foundation to put pressure on elected officials to transition to clean energy, the state made it a goal to rely on 100% renewable energy sources by 2045. Leading the way by example, Rogers himself has pledged to use only renewable energy sources by 2020 and, with the exception of air travel, he has achieved that goal by taking his ranch and his companies off the grid.

While Rogers believes in the importance of saving the planet, he also thinks our species would be foolish to rely on Earth as our only home. In 2013, Rogers teamed up with University of Hawaii professor Kim Binstead to build HI-SEAS, a facility designed to simulate the experience of living on another planet to prepare humans to eventually relocate to another planet. Roger’s goal is to establish a village on the moon by the end of the next decade to serve as a base to travel to Mars. At HI-SEAS, technology is being developed to re-use finite resources like water and ensure solar energy is leveraged as efficiently as possible.

With his ambitious intentions to bring the species onto other planets, Rogers joins the ranks of other tech visionaries like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Whether Rogers will successfully execute his sky-high ideas remains to be seen. But given the monumental challenges our planet faces today, it is clear that big ideas like Rogers’ are what will drive humanity’s success into the future.