Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mental Hallways of Potential Knowledge & Self-Imposed Red Herrings: What I have learned from The Talos Principle (Part 2)

This article is part 2 of this article.

I am going to go right into it so please read part 1 lest ye be burned by the ignorance.

Self-imposed Red Herrings - a.k.a - trolling yourself - a.k.a. - your sub-conscious trolling your conscious.

The Talos Principle introduced me to a type of puzzle I had hitherto never seen in a puzzle game.  So unnatural within a typical game setting yet so natural within a typical life setting, it caused me to see the situation where it often occurs in life from a new, gamey perspective.  I am talking true gamification of life, not that "replace checklists with XP bars" shit companies love doing these days.  I now view something that often occurs to every single human being, something at the sub-conscious level, in nearly the same form as it occurred in The Talos Principle.  I find this perspective very intriguing - an intrigue I hope to explain from this point.

First let me explain what happened in the game.  This will require that I explain the mechanics of the game so please bear with me (Yes.  I spelled it wrong.  Why?  Because bears are cute).

The Talos Principle has a puzzle mechanic where you need to match colored lasers up with their matching colored conduits which then triggers an event that allows the player progress toward the puzzle's solution.  

The entire game is broken down into 4 main areas labeled A, B, C, and The Tower.  The lettered areas are each broken down further into 7 sections, with around 4 puzzles in each section.  If you did the math while you read this, it comes to about 2 billion puzzles.  The game is long.  Just the way I like it (Yes, I do understand why you may be giggling right now).  Each of the 7 sections are accessed by teleportation to and fro the main area, which means you can only access one section at a time.  Each section has its unique topography theme, for example a desert, a field with castles, a tundra, etc., and the 4 puzzles within each section are contained within a gated area with a purple force field at each gate that keeps all the items from leaving each puzzle area.   This means the player cannot bring items from puzzle 1 to help in solving puzzle 2, and so forth.  

There is a catch however.  

Early on in the game the player is introduced to a conundrum.  He/she notices a gated off area that can only be accessed by activated a blue conduit with a blue laser, yet there are no blue lasers within the current puzzle.  The player quickly realizes that the only way to progress is to somehow use a blue laser from another puzzle.  The possibility of cross-puzzle use of items becomes a reality and the player thus enters a new frame of mind to accommodate a new level of puzzle.

And the designers troll this new frame of mind with marvelous intent.

About 3/4 into the game the player, now fully competent in both the micro and macro puzzle forms, is introduced to another one of these cross-area puzzles.  Only this time after much effort of traversing every puzzle area to look for any possible way of bringing a red laser to or fro the puzzle area, nothing seems to work.  What happened is the designers put a red conduit next to a location the player needs to access thus communicating to the player the need to bring a red laser, when in reality the solution is not to activate an event with the red laser/conduit combo but to use a box (which is already in the level) to traverse the impediment and grab the sought after item.  The solution is within the players grasp the entire time but due to this red herring, the player cannot see it.  

In this case the puzzle solution has been flipped around on itself - by purposeful design.

How often, I ask, does a similar form of red herring occur in real life despite the lack of purposeful design?  Very often.  How many times do we find ourselves stuck in life, whether it be in a poisonous relationship, an embarrassing social context, or on the phone with a stubborn customer and we feel trapped?  We feel like we have no where to go - no idea how to escape.

Those moments all have answers of course, we just can't see them due to our own self-imposed red herrings.  We think something should go a certain way because that was how we were convinced was the way.  And usually it isn't until long after the debacle has settled do we look back in hindsight and think, "If only I did this, that entire thing could have been avoided".  How often is the only reason we didn't do this or that due to our own blindness to its existence because we could only see the self-imposed red herring. 

I find it fascinating that a red-herring in a game, purposefully placed by a designer fooled me in much the same way as I fool myself in life with red-herrings unconsciously placed by myself.

I have no idea of a proper ending to this.


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