Tag Archives: Puzzle

Fidgety Fidget Spinners!


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Every year there’s always some simple concept that transforms into a huge fad within the blink of an eye.  Products such as movies, toys, food, TV series, games, clothing, and other commodities can become popular through an interesting idea.  Members of the communications industry can do as much as they can to spread awareness of the trend, but the ending results lie with the audiences.  Some trends stick with the country for a long time while other just wear off quickly.  These trends may come and go every so often, but they make big waves in the social media universe.  This year’s most trending toy is the fidget spinners.

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Fidget spinners, those twirling gadgets that you spin around for hours at a time, have been selling out like crazy in stores everywhere.  These gadgets have been around mostly to help kids with autism or attention disorders concentrate in school, but they exploded in early spring this year.  They weren’t made by a major corporate company and can easily be found at your nearest convenient store.  It’s a hot toy that revolves around such a simple unique selling point, which is to prevent fidgeting problems.

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After months of seeing these around the shelves, I caved in yesterday and brought myself one!  While wandering around Liberty Tree Mall with my friend, I browsed through the selection of fidget spinners on the vendor.  I decided to go with the bright orange glow-in-the-dark spinner to take home.  It was only minutes later that I really got the hang of the device.

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The gist of the toy is really simple: hold the top/bottom with your fingertips and spin the wheel as fast as you can.  Once you stop flicking, hold the bottom part with your fingertips as it spins by itself.  Try holding it with one of your fingertips once you use it a few times.  For even more advanced tricks, try balancing it on your nose or shoe while it’s spinning.

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Other than the fidget spinner, there’s also an alternative toy called the fidget cube.  The fidget cube comes with buttons, clickers, and even wheels to play around with.  Clicking around the fidget cube is really comforting for your hands when you start fidgeting.

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There’s something interesting going on when a toy like a fidget spinner becomes the most popular product for adults.  In this 21st century, our world is rapidly changing each day.  Adults are performing at a faster rate and they can’t stop moving.  There’s been a large demand for more productivity, leaving many people feeling very stressed out.  Could the rise of fidget spinners be caused by the large amount of stress we’re facing?

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Before fidget spinners became the hottest toy of 2017, adults calmed their fidgeting nerves through smoking cigarettes.  Although it’s a nasty habit, cigarette smoking was the common way to calm your nerves every now and then.  But since cigarettes have increased in price over the past few decades (Marlboros are over $10 a pack in MA!), adults have been trying to trade in one habit for another habit.  Then along came the fidget spinners and those fidgety adults can’t get enough of them.  In a strange sense, fidget spinners could be the trend that would replace the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes.

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As I mentioned before, trends come and go every year.  Remember when Pokémon GO was released last summer?  That game spread like WILDFIRE, becoming the hottest app on the Android/Apple market in less than a week (read more about Pokémon GO here).  Fidget Spinners are just as much of a trend as Pokémon GO was in 2016.

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Rather than crack jokes at the silly trends kids are following these days, we should be amazed by the surprising health benefits both of these trends provide.  Fidget Spinners are great for people dealing with fidgeting problems and Pokémon GO helps people who deal with social anxiety.  These trends, as silly as they sound, actually help people in ways that we couldn’t imagine.  Who knew that a new Pokémon game would help people gain better social skills?

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In the end, fidget spinners are one of many toys that combat fidgeting among people.  Things like the ball in the cup, yo-yos, and even Rubik’s Cube were popular just to play with.  The main unique selling point behind these trends was to give your hands something to do every so often.  Cigarettes may be expensive, but you can pick up a fidget spinner for less than $10.

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So the next time you start feeling fidgety, put down the cigarette and pick up a fidget spinner.

The Witness: Solving the Maze Within Your Mind


It’s no secret that video games teach you life lessons outside of the classroom.  Video games have been proven to enhance people’s cognitive skills that are essential for solving real-world problems.  Jonathan Blow’s The Witness is a unique game that plays upon the philosophy around trial and error.

The Witness is an open world puzzle adventure game created after Jonathan Blow’s initial success with Braid.  The game released on January 26th for the PlayStation 4 and Steam console.  In the first week of its release, The Witness raked in $1 million in sales and sold over 100,000 units.

As you start the game, you wander around a large island surrounded by puzzles everywhere.  These puzzle boxes contain a circle as the starting point which they must trace through maze-like paths to reach the endpoint.  You will face complex and subtle rules that will cause you to alter your thinking strategies.  Such challenges you will run into include colored suns, tree branches, Tetris blocks, and many other unique elements.

Other than discovering puzzle boards within the area, you will discover hidden puzzles located around the environment.  Tracing these secret paths solve a portion of an obelisk, a large black structure with symbols engraved on each side.  Many obelisks are scattered around the island, each containing paths to seek out.

When playing through The Witness, you’ll notice that there is no actual narrative within the game.  With no actual narrative to follow through, what’s the underlying idea behind the game?

As you wander through each section of the island, you are constantly conjuring images in your head when completing each puzzle.  This game teaches you how the brain works and how it thinks in certain situations.  Your brain is a muscle that you exercise daily by solving more puzzles as you go along.  In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Jonathan Blow quotes, “The game is designed to create many opportunities for epiphany moments, both small and large. You know that it’s not just about the solving of problems, but what happens when you do”.  Besides the objective of solving puzzle boards, we can see that there is something bigger happening within the estranged island of The Witness.

Imputing various ideas into the puzzle boxes revolves around the concept called the Computational Complexity Theory.  Computational Complexity Theory is about providing random inputs into an algorithm in order to create a YES or NO answer to a problem.  The puzzle boxes around the island and secret puzzles within the environment play a consistent part of the system.  You don’t really understand how the puzzle operates at first glance, but you develop solutions to test the theories about how everything ties together.

Quintessentially, a witness is the reward for when the successful solution has been found so the game is literally about searching for successful solutions to a problem.  You are the witness in the island, constantly interacting with the gaming environment and drawing up successful strings of YES or NO answers.  The key reward for playing the game is fully understanding how to complete the puzzle and how you went about inputting the solution.

Jonathan Blow’s The Witness has players stranded in an open world filled with mysteries to solve.  Each puzzle will rattle your brain as you constantly draw up new ideas for finding the solution.  Puzzles are displayed everywhere you go, prompting you to think about why you are on the island.  Each puzzle you solve boosts the muscles within your brain that are essential for problem-solving skills.

It is more than just a puzzle game because The Witness teaches you lessons about how the brain operates when faced with a complex problem.  We are all faced with complex problems in our lives, but games like The Witness keys you into the operations of decision-making in everyday life.

If you ever want to boost your problem-solving skills, The Witness is the essential game for exercising your brain daily.