I often post about slightly ‘younger’ toys, this is probably because my sons are 2 and 4 so my home experience is limited to this. This week I thought I’d try and get outside this box and talk about some toys aimed at older children: those toys/ games described as ‘logic puzzles’. They can range from simple (yet frustrating) tangles of metal that you get in a Christmas cracker and have to untangle, to large complicated sets incorporating multiple pieces which have to be moved around in designated ways (such as Think Fun’s ‘rush hour’ game where you have to get a car out of a traffic jam).
I love these sorts of games and at the same time I hate them. Because of my stubborn streak (and I have to confess a little over-confidence in my intelligence) once I start one I have to complete it and this can, in some cases, take hours. I’ve solved most of the smaller puzzles in the shop at least once and some many more times than that. Completing a logic puzzle can give you that wonderful and guilty mixture of a sense of achievement coupled with a feeling of superiority (“I completed this and you haven’t”). That said, I have genuinely given up with some puzzles, e.g. I have never solved a rubik’s cube and I gave up on Think Fun’s ’36 cube’ game after 4-5 hours. I think I like the challenge but there’s a limit on how much of my time I’ll put into it and that’s kind of what I’d like to ask people to comment about today.
What’s the ‘sweet spot’ of enjoyment between the eureka moment associated with completing something that is genuinely challenging, and the frustration of inability? For me it is probably the time factor that marks this out: if it takes too long I’m just not going to try any more, that perhaps sounds lazy but part of me becomes increasingly aware, as time goes on, that I’m playing a game and that there are other things I could be doing with my time. It’s different for conventional board games because then there’s the socialising aspect to make the time appreciably more meaningful.
This said I’ll often come back to a logic puzzle on a number of occasions to try my luck again thinking: “I may have wasted four hours on this yesterday but I think I know how it works now so I should be able to do it in a bout twenty minutes”. I’ll delude myself like this repeatedly in some cases, but I must admit I will probably never return to the two puzzles mentioned above as I just can’t get them and ‘getting’ them will likely take more time than I could ever excuse myself for taking.
I wonder if there could be other factors, aside from time, which might make someone abandon a logic puzzle; perhaps a lack of confidence in your ability to solve it (I suppose that’s part of my cop-outs too) or even using the ultimate excuse and blaming the toy for being defective (e.g. giving up based on the belief that a rubik’s cube has been tampered with and so will be impossible to solve). Comments are welcome, and feel free to taunt me on my lack of Rubik’s skill pointing out how intellectually superior you are for having solved it (you know you want to, that’s part of the fun). It would also be interesting to know what logic puzzles have really got under your skin. Thanks for reading, Cheers, John