Clive Thompson on Puzzles and the Hive Mind

Recently, Jonathan Blow issued a plea to his audience: Don't use a walkthrough to play my videogame.

A walkthrough is a set of step-by-step instructions that fans write to help one another make their way through a complex game. It's a collaborative phenomenon: One player posts a walkthrough online, then others instantly begin adding details, cataloging every nuance of a game. Last August, after Blow released Braid-a clever, moody puzzler for the Xbox-players assembled a complete walkthrough within days.

Which is precisely what bothers Blow. From his standpoint, walkthroughs ruin the pleasure of puzzles. In an online letter to his fans, he explained that he created Braid to be teasingly hard-but not impossible-for one person to solve. Reading the walkthrough, he complained, spoils the sense of accomplishment you get from cracking a tricky puzzle. "You will feel cool and smart," he wrote.

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