As the most interactive form of entertainment media, gaming is uniquely suited to test and develop logical reasoning skills. If you’re not into games but enjoy mental stimulation, consider trying out one of the games below. You might just be impressed at the logical challenges they present to you.
When Braid was released, NPR called it a “meditation on the meaning of life.” Braid is a platform puzzle game with beautiful oil painting graphics that presents the player with puzzles to solve in a 2D, left-to-right environment. When playing it, it quickly becomes clear that the deceptively simple format was chosen so the creators could make the actual puzzles as complicated as possible. You’ll navigate Tim, the protagonist, through levels where you can go backward in time, work together with a shade version of yourself, and enter worlds where time passes forward when you go right and backward when you go left. There is a vague yet deep storyline in the piece, but you can enjoy the game purely for the fun of the head-scratching puzzles it offers you.
The Portal series is probably best known by non-gamers for inspiring that meme in 2008 about how “The cake is a lie.” But defining Portal on this alone does the game a disservice and detracts from the fact that it is an extremely unique, tricky logic game. Portal and Portal 2 are first-person shooters based off a simple but ingenious mechanic: The player has a gun that can shoot two “portals” which are connected to each other. The orange portal is a gateway to the blue portal and vice versa, and you can put them on anything in the environment, anywhere. This simple formula can be used for increasingly complicated tricks which you need to navigate the game—or just to goof around and see how far you can push it. Using the portals to get from point A to point B quickly gives way to experiments with infinite loops and general manipulation of physics, but you don’t need a computer science master’s degree to figure it out. It encourages unique and proactive thinking, and it’s fun to boot.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is the most notorious example of a parkour game. It’s even getting a surprisingly faithful-looking film adaptation starring Oscar nom Michael Fassbender. Logic isn’t called for in solving puzzles—not much anyway—but in navigating the very world the game is set in. The story is a means through which the player scales objects, and, through simulation, learns new ways to move. It emulates the mindset of actual parkour: discarding normal conceptions of how we navigate the world around us, and reconsidering the best way to get from point A to point B if you’re willing to test the limits of what’s possible. Being asked to think outside the box like that can only be a good thing.
Mirror’s Edge is another Parkour game, which would make it sound similar to the last suggestion, but with the dizzying difference of being in first person. Literally dizzying, in some cases. Mirror’s Edge is all about navigating the landscape from the perspective of a first person camera. Playing the game means twisting your perspective into corkscrews, and in turn that gives you a fresh way to approach the real world, albeit very likely from much, much closer to the ground.
In Myst, the puzzle/mystery game that’s still defining what it means to tell puzzle/mystery stories, the player is deposited in a jungled environment and left to wander around and try to figure out where the heck they are. The answer is found not so much through a series of puzzles, but through the discovery that the entire game map is one giant, multi-part puzzle. The map is strewn with switches and hidden levers, and the player must puzzle out what each one does, and what the right combinations to move forward are. A series of separate factors distributed widely over the currently accessible area often need to be manipulated to set off the chain of events needed to progress, so the game doesn’t just require puzzle skills, but coaxes the player to recall and be able to envision large amounts of information. Myst’s famously atmospheric setting and tricky approach to being a puzzle game has been influencing creators across genres since it came out. It was reportedly a major influence in Andrew Hussie’s approach to his experimental combinations of comics and gaming, and inspired the creator of hit mystery series Gravity Falls.
Applying Game Logic to Life
Certain incidents show that applying classic video game puzzle-solving logic to the real world can be a workable logic tool, if you use it in a clever and proactive way. The genre is just one more tool humanity has invented for itself to hold art as a mirror up to life and build up the tools we use to be effective and understand the world and ourselves.
What games would you add to this list? Tweet us at @nerdlikeyou and let us know.