Some folks know the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for being one of the best universities in the world, others know that one of the first computer game Spacewar! created at MIT, but others know MIT for its famous annual puzzle hunt. The MIT Mystery Hunt is a puzzle hunt competition taking place on the MIT campus with more than 2,000 players. To provide a better digital access to these superb, hard and mind-twisting puzzles, we asked the MIT Game Lab to recreate some of their best games and puzzles.
The taske seamed easier than it turned out to be. Choose from hundreds of puzzles that are used at the puzzle hunt and use them as an inspiration to create a digital mind game. But it turned out that reshaping the puzzles was hard. Why? In a Mystery Hunt puzzle players don’t just solve a problem, there are several “AHA” moments players have to overcome together to finally get the answer. We asked the game developers of our most challenging playlist, the MIT Game Lab playlist, how they did it: what inspired them, what processes they follow, and how they zone in on fun and manage difficulty.
No Yellow in the Pot of Gold
By Angela Lin
I created “No Yellow in the Pot of Gold” by taking inspiration from the first MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle that I looked at, "No Pluto". I really liked how “No Pluto” was a puzzle in which the words the puzzle solver needed to find were not directly given, but also part of the puzzle itself, and really wanted to create something similar. It was an interesting experience creating this puzzle because it the first puzzle I created, and I was able to learn so much about how important playtesting is, and how a puzzle creator is unable to fairly judge the difficulty of his or her puzzles until playtesting is done. I initially created a puzzle that was much larger than the final version, and attempted to mimic the original “No Pluto” puzzle by including words in a L-shape before realizing that I was making it too complicated and deterring puzzle solvers too quickly.
No “A” in Fruits
By Angela Lin
I really fell in love with word search puzzles and wondered what would happen if, instead of embedding an extra letter as I did for another puzzle “No Yellow in the Pot of Gold,” I instead replaced a letter in the words the puzzle solver was supposed to solve. It was actually a little difficult to find a category which would have the letters necessary; I did not want to be confusing and thus, only stuck to words that had one of the letters I wanted to replace (for example, “banana” has multiple A’s and thus, could not be used even though it is one of my favorite fruits). I really enjoyed watching people play-test this puzzle and my first puzzle because I found it fascinating how much harder it is for puzzle solvers when you replaced a letter, rather than add a letter.
Eggcorns to Acorns
By Angela Lin
“Eggcorns to Acorns” was a puzzle I created when I was inspired by the Mystery Hunt puzzle, “Picture an Acorn.” I loved the wordplay involved with the original puzzle, but thought that the puzzle was too involved for the less-than-diehard puzzle solvers and thus, wanted to create something that did not involve the whole cutting-and-pasting but instead, solely focused on the wordplay. I initially wanted to use a wider variety of eggcorns, but because many eggcorns are ambiguous, I decided to use more straightforward ones that were less confusing and more enjoyable and ridiculous.
Start the MIT Playlist and explore the games here.