I’ve been thinking more about how to best define a puzzle. What would we be trying to create at The Puzzle School?
One definition of a puzzle I’ve been working with is anything that facilitates autonomy, progress, and purpose.
So anything that allows you to approach the problem from a number of different perspectives (autonomy), provides a sense that your efforts are accumulating toward a goal (progress), and has some goal in mind (purpose).
I still think this is a great definition, but more recently I’ve been working with a different definition:
A puzzle is anything that facilitates pattern recognition.
Humans are very good at pattern recognition. Pattern recognition allows us to survive, communicate, be empathetic, be creative, and so much more. Puzzles at their heart are all about pattern recognition. They ask us to discover patterns (an autonomous process) that allow us increase our pace toward the goal (progress). And the rewards that come along with discovering a new pattern, with gaining a greater understanding of how a system (the puzzle) works is extremely gratifying and can even become the goal itself. This makes it even more likely that people will develop a love of the journey rather than simply trying to reach the goal.