Like summer It stretched into 2021, my mental health plummeted to depression, and I’m certainly not the only one struggling right now. Along with other depressed players, when we were down I always resorted to one thing that belongs to us: puzzle games.
I have long suffered from depression and anxiety, and at these low points I often choose games that challenge my brain and keep me busy. I was looking for clues, for example, in a puzzle-heavy detective game Jenny LeClue: Detective or my heart torn to a beautiful degree The Gardens Between, I noticed that these puzzles made me feel, at least for a few moments, that I could keep my head out of the water.
And, as I suspected, I’m not the only one who breaks the puzzles when they feel depressed. Take Harsh Goyal, a dog training blogger and a Rubix cube fan living in Delhi, India, who turned to puzzles between the stress and anxiety of last year’s Covid-19 blockade. Goyal says he thinks of puzzles as a bunch of points waiting to be connected in the right way.
“The urge to connect those points is so strong that you completely get lost in it,” he says. “So even if I’m sad, angry or disgusted before any puzzle starts, I’m always in a good mood after the puzzle is finished.”
Goyal chooses tedious offline puzzles, such as crossword puzzles and 1,000-piece floor puzzles, to ease the stress of work or help the mind fall asleep when running at night. But according to Olivia James, a trauma therapist living in London, it doesn’t matter what format your puzzles are in; resolving them is good because it provides a sense of control and satisfaction.
“What’s so gratifying about puzzles is that there are no surprises,” James says. “Nothing unexpected will happen in a puzzle.”
Keeping your mind busy but not overly challenged, James says, is very helpful for people with depression, anxiety, and stress because it offers what he describes as “a little vacation from you”. For some, this “soft focus” takes the form of caring for a garden or tidying up a room, while for others, puzzles fill that space.
The difference between a traditional soft focus and puzzles, however, is the satisfaction of an “elegant solution” in the end, according to James. In a world of constantly changing rules and expectations, the clear rules and codes that appear in puzzles make you feel in control of what you solve: the rules of the puzzle won’t change whether you like it or not, so the only question is whether you can. fix.
For game developer Simon Joslin, co-founder and level designer at The Voxel Agents The Gardens Between, designing great puzzles is about teaching the player that code and then questioning it.
“You’re always accumulating knowledge because the player is ultimately learning the language of the game,” says Joslin of designing puzzle games.
As a player, you fall into a world with new rules and physics, and passing the level is about learning and applying these guidelines. As Joslin says, “It’s never a language you’ve spoken, so you have to learn the basics of our language and how to use it and how not to use it.”