November 25, 2021

So, Happy Thanksgiving!

I took the week off to hang with my folks and one thing I've been doing is catching up on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Switch. Just a week or two ago I realized I had accidentally erased my save file, and so I'd like to regain some of the cool stuff I had in the game. (Especially the horses that Cora liked.)

It's a great game, but it makes me think about why I dislike puzzles in games so much. The simplest theory is that I just don't like them because I'm not good at them. But I also realized I can explain it under the overall arch I have of how I'm interested in how things interact, not on what they intrinsically are...

Like, puzzles (like the ones in the 4 "Divine Beast" dungeons in BotW) are self-contained. Some smart and creative game designer set it up, and you're either clever enough to re-follow their steps, or you give up and look for guides online. But... you're not solving problems that are really connected to anything. (Slightly less true in that the puzzles in BotW involve physics.) They are set up to be bounded little challenges, but not really connect with solving things in the "real world" or even in the world of the rest of game.

That's one of the things I like about casual "party games" vs more thinky stuff like "Settlers of Catan" or what not. I mean, a strategy game like Catan is essentially a puzzle game you are playing against other folks. And again, I might dislike it because I'm not good at it and it bruises my tender ego, but also I prefer games that let players really use creativity, in part because that creativity tends to be making references to the outside world... a Pictionary-ish reference or Quiplash-like jest, pop-culture or otherwise, connects with the outside world.

(Heh, but then again I secretly don't like trivial games, which are all about referencing the outside world. I guess in that case I just like activities that create new stuff, not just talk about everything that's already there. Creativity and "Categorical Novelty" are existential goods, by my reckoning.)
FOLLOWUP: To be fair, a lot of the problem is my frustration in reading the results of actions inside a puzzle - like if some action doesn't have an effect it's not always clear if it was the wrong action, or just wrong performed. For example on the "Vah Medoh" puzzle that inspired this ramble, "The trick here is that we need to hit the large switch with the battering ram with full force in order to press it all the way down."... I got the idea of using the ram, but since it didn't work, I thought it was the wrong solution, not the right general ide badly performed...