like summer In 2021 my mental health regressed towards depression – and I’m certainly not the only one currently struggling. Along with other depressed players, he turned to the one thing that’s always there for us when we’re down: puzzle games.
I’ve long struggled with depression and anxiety, and during these low points I often choose games that challenge my brain and occupy my busy mind. Whether you are looking for clues in a heavy detective game like puzzle Jenny Leclau: Detectivu Or my heart was touched by beautiful levels of parks between, I noticed, that these puzzles made me feel, at least for a few moments, as if I could keep my head above water.
And as I guessed, I’m not the only one tearing up mysteries when they’re feeling depressed. Take for example Harsh Goyal, a dog training blogger and Rubix cube enthusiast based in Delhi, India, who turned to puzzles amid the stress and anxiety of last year’s Covid-19 lockdowns. Goyal says he thinks of the puzzles as a series of dots waiting to be connected the right way.
“The urge to connect these dots is so strong that you get completely lost in it,” he says. “So even if I’m sad, angry, or disgusted before starting any puzzle, I always end up in a satisfying mood after completing a puzzle.”
Goyal chooses challenging offline puzzles, such as crosswords and 1,000-piece gradient floor puzzles, to calm work-related stress or help him sleep when his mind races at night. But according to Olivia James, a London-based trauma therapist, it doesn’t matter what form your puzzles come in — solving them sounds good because it provides a sense of control and satisfaction.
“The good thing about puzzles is that there are no surprises,” James says. “Nothing unexpected will happen in the puzzle.”
Focusing your mind, but not excessively, James says is incredibly beneficial for people with depression, anxiety, and stress because it offers what she describes as “a little vacation of yourself.” For some people, this “nice focus” takes the form of gardening or arranging a room, while for others, puzzles fill this space.
The difference between the traditional cute focus and puzzles, though, is to satisfy an “elegant solution” in the end, according to James. In a world full of ever-changing norms and expectations, the clear rules and norms found in puzzles make the person who takes the place of control – the rules of the puzzle will not change randomly, so the only question is whether you can solve them.
For game developer Simon Joslin, co-founder of The Voxel Agents and Level Designer for parks between, designing great puzzles is all about teaching the player this symbol and then testing it.
“You’re always accumulating knowledge because the player eventually learns the language of the game,” Jocelyn says of designing puzzle games.
As a player, you fall into a world with new rules and physics, and beating a level is all about learning and applying those guidelines. Jocelyn says, “It’s not a language I’ve ever spoken, so you need to learn the basic building blocks of our language and understand how to use it and how not to use it.”