On Puzzles in Games
colored beads, numbers and letters, and other objects that a player
manipulates in some way to achieve the puzzle’s goal. In some cases,
the props are tied to the real world—particularly games using letters
to spell words and numbers that are manipulated mathematically.
In many cases, however, the props are not tied to the real world and
the identities of props could be switched without aecting the game
play. For example, the illustration appearing on a jigsaw puzzle could
be switched with any other illustration without changing how the
puzzle is put together. Likewise, in the popular game of Sudoku, the
nine numbers that ll the grid could be replaced by any other sym-
bols. ere is no manipulation of numbers mathematically in the
game, since it is a puzzle about pattern recognition.
Puzzlemaster Kim Scott denes a puzzle as “a problem that is
fun to solve.” He also denes them as “Puzzles are a toy with the goal
of nding a solution.” Of course, some puzzles are a pleasure while
others are a pain. A homework assignment in mathematics might be
seen as a pain by many students, but the homework problems are all
puzzles to be solved and some students enjoy the mental challenge of
coming up with the correct solutions.
Most puzzles are solitaire experiences, and players are not trying
to compete against other persons but against themselves. erefore,
the designer doesn’t have to build in any penalties for cheating be-
cause players are only cheating themselves. e fun in playing a puz-
zle is the Eureka factor, the “Aha!” when the player comes up with
the correct solution to solving the puzzle, where all the pieces fall
into place. Usually, players ponder over the puzzle, trying out vari-
ous approaches until they nd one that works. e solution might
seem imponderable at rst, but eventually a sudden insight appears
that cuts through the confusion and leads to the solution. at sud-
den moment of realization can almost feel physical. In a way, detec-
tive novels are ctional puzzles where the reader tries to stay ahead
of the sleuth who is gathering clues and come up with the name of
the guilty party who committed the crime.
e basic elements of a puzzle are:
■ initial problem that is presented to the player.
■ rules that guide how the puzzle is to be solved.
■ solution where everything is made clear and puzzle is