Published on April 7th, 2014 | by Guest Writer6
Baffledazzle: Creating Immersive Experiences
Everyone please welcome our first event guest writer: Rachel Happen! She’s here today to talk about her current Kickstarter that is all about puzzles! If you like puzzles, Rachel has hidden a puzzle in the article. If you discover the answer, let us know in the comments, Facebook or Twitter. The first person with the correct solution will receive a free set of her Code Breaker coasters!
Guest Post for Across The Board Games
Hey there! I’m Rachel Happen, creator of Baffledazzle puzzles, which are on Kickstarter right now! These aren’t your average puzzles; they’re designed to be an adventure in a box- an exploration that leads you to discover something new and interesting about the world around us.
To achieve that lofty goal these puzzles must deliver an experience that’s immersive. That word gets tossed around a lot to describe all sorts of entertainment, but what exactly does it feel like? And how would you go about creating an immersive experience?
I think of the ideal immersive experience is one where you feel like you are the protagonist in a movie. You’re tasked with something movie-worthy and you’re triumphing over obstacles left and right. You’re pitted against a villain that’s your equal, fighting a fight that you were made for.
I’ve found board games to be a great source of immersive experiences. My first such experience, which got me hooked on the board gaming hobby, was during a game of Pandemic. The Player deck was dwindling, there were trios of disease cubes all over the place and an outbreak apocalypse lurked a turn or two away. It looked very bleak, but suddenly a plan started to emerge. We realized we could hold off the worst outbreaks with a quick relocation. Then we pulled off a daring card exchange to cure the last disease on the last move. What I remember most vividly is looking down at the board in awe and disbelief. The game had thrown everything it had at us and we’d won. It felt like we really had saved the world from a crushing pandemic.
I’m not just talking about games either!
Anything that draws us into another world or reveals a hidden story can be immersive. Take a look at these shoes: Nike SB’s Wallenberg Dunks. They look pretty standard until you learn the story behind them. They pay homage to a palm tree that grows by the steps in front of the Raoul Wallenberg Alternative School in San Francisco. Many of the best skateboarding videos of the mid 90s were filmed on those steps with the palm tree playing a silent supporting role in the background.
The Nike swoosh is made of hemp to reference the tree’s trunk, the white sole represents the stairs and the black line at the top of the midsole represents the stairs’ waxed edge, darkened by thousands of skateboard decks. The insoles even feature a pixelated image of the palm tree itself, exactly as it appeared in all those videos. This shoe is immersive because it’s a story waiting to be told. All of the details, like the hemp and waxed lip, are little riddles waiting to be solved, meaning waiting to be uncovered. (Take a step deeper and find out who Raoul Wallenberg was!)
So, when I set out to create puzzles that led solvers on an adventure, I wanted to draw on everything I loved about immersive experiences. I tried to deliver a solving experience that made you feel like Indiana Jones: ruthlessly smart with a touch of physical cunning. I wanted to capture all the sleuthing and drama and close calls in one journey and make it feel like you were driving the action forward. Many prototypes and 5 finished puzzles series later, let me share what I’ve learned. To create an immersive puzzle, you’ll need to:
1. Create multiple paths:
You must make sure the solver is finding their own way toward the solution, not being led along by the clues. It should be more like a bread crumb trail through a forest that reassures you that you’re on the right track rather than a leash that makes sure you can’t get lost. That means coming up with at least three starting points and repeating trickier clues in different forms. For example, if a solver needs to know that the person they’re looking for was born in New Zealand, I might include a clue in Maori, the language of its indigenous people and include an outline of New Zealand’s main island as an additional visual clue.
2. Force people to find another way
There is no triumph without adversity! The second rule of immersive puzzles is to build obstacles. Every once in a while the solver should run into a dead end. The crumbs stop and they’re staring into the thick forest undergrowth wondering what to do now. Make sure solvers have to make decisions! Some may go backward to try to find another way forward. Some may go crashing through the underbrush to see if they can spot another clue further on. Maybe after all your searching, all you’ve learned is that this person served in the Maquis. Hmmm, is that a reference to Star Trek or World War II? If you’ve created multiple paths solvers should be able to find the trail again.
3. Reward solvers for their time
This is the hardest part! The final piece is making it all worth it. Make sure that the prize at the end is worth the search. In Baffledazzle puzzles the solution is always something real: a moment in history, a scientific discovery, a hidden culture, a tradition forgotten by time, or an ancient joke. I spend days researching the stories behind each puzzle, making sure that the solution is worth discovering and that the journey there will be entertaining and challenging.
Thanks for hearing me out! I’d love to hear about the experiences (in games or otherwise) that you’ve found immersive. If you’re interested in Baffledazzle puzzles you can pick up one of my five puzzle series on my Kickstarter page. The campaign will end on May 4th. If successful, I will use the proceeds to buy a laser cutter and begin producing my puzzles! You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr.
Photo credit for the Nike SBs: SaleDunk.org