It’s September 22nd, and my brother and I are sitting in the pastor’s office in our tuxedos. We’re listening for the music change that will cue us to walk out into the sanctuary, where the ceremony will take place. We’re sitting in nervous silence with the pastor, who has given up on his attempts at small talk and has left my brother and I to our fidgeting. This would be an excellent time to go over the order of events in my head, since I would very much like to get through this without screwing up my brother’s wedding.
But then I see a puzzle on the bookshelf beside me. It’s right within arms’ reach. It’s a piece of wood with a few plastic pegs in it. There is a bit of text on the side explaining the rules, and under that are the words, “IF YOU CAN SOLVE THIS IN THREE TRIES OR LESS YOU ARE A GENIUS.” Now, you should not believe puzzles when they make these sorts of claims. These things are designed to sell themselves, and so it is in their best interest to flatter you. I know this, but a statement like this is the equivalent of telling a guy with a gambling problem that you have a hot tip on a horse and that it’s a sure thing. I’m defenseless, even against such a clumsy and obvious ploy.
I think about the fact that we are due to go out any second, the fact that my brother is about to be married, on my responsibilities in the coming hours, and I turn away from it. But it’s too late. My brain is already picturing the arrangement of pegs and holes and visualizing the various permutations of moves. I’m screwed. I sit there for about thirty seconds before I give up and childishly swipe the toy from his shelf. My brother laughs at me.
The pegs are exceedingly stiff in the holes and it shows no signs of wear. Either this thing is brand new (unlikely) or the pastor just keeps it here as a decoration and never plays with it. He sat in the same room with it for years and never felt compelled to touch it, and yet I could not do that for even thirty seconds. There is something wrong with one of us. At least.
My hands are shaking. Not over the puzzle. The puzzle has a calming effect, but not enough to overcome the anxiety of the coming hours. I have to give the wedding toast, and I’m filled with apprehension.
For crying out loud. When I was trying to think about the wedding I couldn’t stop thinking about the puzzle, and now that’ I’m doing the puzzle I can’t stop worrying about the wedding. It really is tough to make the pegs go in with my hands trembling like this.
I solve it on my second attempt, which means I get the satisfaction of knowing a piece of wood thinks I’m a genius. The music changes and we all stand up as I’m shoving the last peg into place. We walk out and the ceremony begins, but in the back of my mind I’m still fiddling with the thing. Was that the only sequence of moves that would lead to the solution? Could it have been done in fewer moves? What is the maximum number of moves you could make without hitting a dead-end? It really is sad.
I have never had any interest in recreational drug use. I’d rather be stoic and alert than happy and fuzzy-headed. Drugs just don’t offer the sort of stimulation I crave. But if someone ever comes up with a way to capture and purify the sensation of solving puzzles and distill it into liquid form, I’m hosed. Three weeks after the drug hits the streets you’ll find me in some filthy hotel on the edge of town, needle still in my arm, overdosed on some cheap Tetris clone.
I don’t know why I’m wired this way. I’m driven to overcome obstacles and create order from chaos, but only in abstract, symbolic ways. Getting a bunch of shapes into the right color and configuration brings me a sense of satisfaction, but getting the grass in my yard to a uniform height and color gives me no such thrill.
|It’s not a very interesting puzzle in the grand scheme of things, but I knew some people would want to have a look once I mentioned it. If I remember correctly: The idea is to swap the red & blue pegs. Each color may only move forward, never backwards. They may advance one space or jump another peg. Remember, if you can do this in three tries or less then "you are a genius". (A claim I disproved the moment I solved it, since I am not a genius by the accepted definition. I think I wasted too many skill points on CHA.)|
The Best of 2019
I called 2019 "The Year of corporate Dystopia". Here is a list of the games I thought were interesting or worth talking about that year.
The Dumbest Cutscene
This is it. This is the dumbest cutscene ever created for a AAA game. It's so bad it's simultaneously hilarious and painful. This is "The Room" of video game cutscenes.
What is Vulkan?
There's a new graphics API in town. What does that mean, and why do we need it?
Why Batman Can't Kill
His problem isn't that he's dumb, the problem is that he bends the world he inhabits.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.