I downloaded an app for my iPhone last night which really confused me. Called Doodle God, it is riding high in the Top Paid Downloads section, is the lowest possible price, and has a nearly perfect rating from users. How could I go wrong in buying it?
I think I made my first mistake expecting it to be a puzzle game. It has many elements of the genre: you have to combine elements to make new elements, and I was looking for some guiding logic that governed why some elements can be combined, and others not. But there is none. You just have to randomly drag elements together until you get a combination. And that is it.
My ideal of puzzle game has the following elements: no luck, no randomness and no need for fast reactions. Word puzzles can be fun, but lack the purity of number puzzles, where no spelling difficulties (or national differences) have any influence. Strimko, pictured below, is ideal, but Sokoban is another example.
It is just you against the puzzle. If you can’t solve it, there is no-one to blame but yourself.
When I realised that Doodle God was not a puzzle game at all (in fairness, it is just listed as a game on the app store) I became overly agitated. It was like someone had violated a sacred principle. But what really amazed me was reading the (almost) uniform praise that the game gets from other people. What are these people thinking? Doodle God has a relationship to a real puzzle game as a toy steering wheel has to driving a car.
Thinking about it, I think the difference goes to the heart of my character. I like to think of the universe as governed by physical laws, with no supernatural influences. I like to think that all the answers to all the questions are just waiting to be discovered, some more obvious than others, but all waiting for the right mind to unlock the secret. All the seeming chaos is governed by science. This is the enlightenment view. If you don’t understand the universe, it is because you have not thought hard enough.
The other way of thinking is that the universe is governed by an unseen intelligence, whose ways are mysterious and inscrutable. This is the medieval view. That you do not expect to understand the universe, that understanding the universe is not possible for humans.
I am not saying that one way is right or wrong: my knowledge of science is limited to popular science paperbacks, and thus constitutes nothing more than a belief system for me. I just reflect that you can tell a lot from someone by which puzzle games they find satisfying to complete.