I’ve had a lurking thought for a while, a challenged I’ve unconsciously assigned to myself, and that is to come up with a puzzle that the Internet cannot defeat. That is to say, create an experience in a game that someone can’t just google the solution to. Games of skill can’t be “solved” by a walkthrough, but to create a puzzle or challenge that’s like those usually unlocked by a walkthrough yet can’t be stumped would be a new horizon of gaming in the Internet Age. It’s much like the problem of making a trailer for a scary movie. You have to tell the audience that something paranormal will happen (and usually what genre it is), but then they can’t really be as scared as that poor family when their status quo is first defiled. If instead the audience thought they were going to a drama film, then when the monster attacks everyone would truly be surprised. So it is with challenges in games: If you can’t find the solution, someone else has and you can just google it. There really is no true puzzle left that you have to set aside and return to periodically before the answer strikes you. Puzzles don’t make us sagacious and pensive anymore. They make us frustrated and entitled.
There are two parts to a potential puzzle that could be ungooglable. The first ally to the design is randomness. If each player’s puzzle is randomly generated then they will each have different solutions. Have enough variables to make the number of possible outcomes mind-boggling and players will at least have to code an application to solve it for them. That takes care of half the gaming population. But what about the guys that have written the optimal gear and skill tree calculators? How do we get back to a challenge that we just have to face with our mind and not develop a technology to beat it for us? It’s OK to have gamers that play that way. That’s what our world is now. It would be great to see game challenges that also embrace the metagame engineering abilities of their players also. But I would also like to create a challenge that engages players at the other end of our mental abilities, a corner of our minds that’s growing darker and darker for games.
So what more could be done to bypass software solvers? The solution of course is in the players themselves. If, for example, when the player creates their character, certain choices they make or maybe even questions they answer that lead to their stats, class, background, etc. could be used as seed data to create a puzzle that is unique to the player. This could come in the form of a cryptic alphabet whose solution is randomized for each player and whose decryption is the semantic data input by the player in the character setup process. Give a short personality survey that will “build the perfect class for your playing style”—you could call it Personalized Role Generation. Don’t know what class to play? Not sure if you’d enjoy being a warrior or mage more 50 hours into the game? Not to worry. We’ll figure it out for you! It wouldn’t be hard to sell it. Then you give them moral dilemmas, would you rather, most embarrassing moment, and other similar questions. The answers will then be a put into the linguistic aspect of the puzzle. To make it even better the player could type answers in and it be semantically scanned, extracting particular terms to use. Then when it comes to posting solutions on the Internet, people may hesitate to! What would you be remiss to post for everyone to read? If you still sleep with a nightlight you might not wanna put that on a forum!
I don’t know what an impervious and 90%+ reliable solution would be, but going in this direction would create new and unique puzzles that could bring gamers in the Google Era back to challenges that are only gamer vs. the game.