Christian Long

Scott Kim: Takes Apart the Art of Puzzles

In TED Talks on April 29, 2010 at 11:26 am

Reflection by VIVIAN H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Scott Kim:  Takes Apart the Art of Puzzles

How often does one associate creativity with mathematics or logic synonymously? We seperate the right brain from the left, dry facts from the creative drive, but are they really so separate from each other? Scott Kim, in his talk on taking apart the art of puzzles, combines innovative thinking with the logic required to solve a puzzle.

What is a puzzle?

According to Kim, “A puzzle is a problem that is fun to solve and has a right answer. ‘Fun to solve,’ as opposed to everyday problems, which, frankly, are not very well-designed puzzles.’Right answer,’ of course there might be more than one right answer; many puzzles have more than one. But as opposed to a couple other forms of play, toys and games, by toy I mean, something you play with that doesn’t have a particular goal.” It is true that puzzles limit one in a sense that there is always a “right answer” but in this case, isn’t it the process that matters, not the end solution? The process of figuring out a puzzle demands imagination in order to seek an unconvential solution. Therefore to make a puzzle requires imagination and creativity, not just pure logic.

“I consider puzzles an art form. They’re very ancient. It goes back as long as there is written history. It may be a very small form, like a joke, a poem, a magic trick or a song; a very compact form. At worst, they’re throwaways, they’re for amusement. But at best they can reach for something more and create a memorable impression.” Puzzles are historic, they carry memories of the past, and some are still around even today although we may not recognize its origins. Even for amusement, puzzles help tide a person through the dreary working routines of everyday life. Puzzles touch the lives of everybody, from young kids to adults, to the senior citizens.

Puzzles are also an interactive medium which most often make the best tools for learning.Think back to that period of time in an infant’s life when they just begin to link together sounds with images. Curiosity drives these children towards hands on learning, which in my opinion is the most effective. Puzzles require hands on participation, not merely visual interpretation, allowing the experience to be more memorable. “You can really get inside somebody’s perception and have them experience something. It’s like the old maxim of “you can tell somebody something and show them, but if they do it they really learn it.”

“We’re also making smart games for social media.” Puzzles just like humanity, have also undergone an evolution towards techonology. Now many puzzles are accesible online across the globe. Puzzles can expand to include people from different countries, across seas, and are not only limited to immediate family members. Technology has changed the art of puzzle solving, and eventually online puzzles will become history for posterity, just like ancient puzzle forms have been passed down to us today.

“We’re looking at three trends. This is what’s going on in the games industry right now.” “Bejeweled is a big hit. It was the game that really broke open what’s called casual games. And the main players are over 35, and are female. Then recently Rock Band has been a big hit. It’s very physical. It looks nothing like a traditional game. This is what’s becoming the dominant form of electronic gaming. There is also a trend towards games that are good for you. For instance, our parents are getting Alzheimer’s. We better do something. Turns out doing crossword puzzles can stave off some of the effects of Alzheimer’s.” Once again technological advancement has changed the concept of gaming, creating a domino effect, influencing everything from puzzles to the way a person speaks.

Games are becoming an even more dominant part of our society, because children have slowly become the center of focus leading up to future generations. Taking care of the elderly have increasingly become a part of our society as well, but now that care also requires providing entertainment for those who have retired. Games and puzzles stimulate the mind, and influence us more than we think. Without stimluation and constant processing,our lives would be dull indeed.

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