Scott Kim: The Power of Puzzle Creation

Guest Author: Hana Lobsinger

In his Ted Talk, The Art of Puzzles, puzzle master Scott Kim walks the audience through his career of designing puzzles, displaying his passion and the meaning behind his work. Puzzles can be described in different ways and come in a variety of forms. In his talk, Kim defines a puzzle as a “problem that is fun to solve and has a right answer.” Not only does he think of them as a kind of hobby or entertaining activity, he states that puzzles are a form of art that he has dedicated himself to for over 20 years. Starting at a young age, Scott Kim gained an interest in creating puzzles and turned his passion into a career. His main goal in his work Hana Lobsinger_925505_assignsubmission_file_Scott Kim Puzzle Masteris to create puzzles that are memorable and leave a lasting impression.

When we think of puzzles, we might initially think of the typical puzzles like jigsaw, crossword, or games like chess. Scott Kim’s work falls outside of this mold. As a puzzle master, he has created a wide variety of puzzles. In this talk, he breaks up his journey into multiple parts. He begins with his first time creating an original puzzle with the “folded letter.” His interest shifted to the perception-altering form of puzzles called “figure ground,” then to games and investigative reporting for publications like Discover Magazine. Most recently, his focus has turned to online games connected to social media, specifically through his website that he created with his wife, Amy Jo Kim.

Puzzles are an important part of the history of mathematics. Further research on puzzle creation makes it evident that many famous mathematicians showed interest in the subject. Scott Kim explains in his talk how he is not interested in working from someone else’s matrix (like crossword puzzles or Sudoku), but instead prefers to create original and noteworthy things. Besides providing a mentally stimulating form of entertainment for people of all ages, how can puzzles be used in constructive ways in society? Kim aims to answer this question by channeling his intelligence and creative energy in productive ways through his work. His approach appeals to the aging population, especially those interested in maintaining brain health. Studies have shown that engaging in puzzles and stimulating games improves brain function. Kim published a book with neuroscientist Richard Restak titled “THE PLAYFUL BRAIN: The Surprising Science Of How Puzzles Improve Your Mind,” which explains the reasons why activities like these mentioned have a positive effect.

In this talk, Scott Kim points a few ways the world of gaming is changing. First is that the online computer game audience has expanded. He also mentioned the increasing popularity of games that are healthy for your brain and the social media craze. Bringing these ideas together, Kim aims to create games and puzzles that fit the modern world. Combining his wife’s expertise in social media and his in puzzles and software development, they created their website. The website caters to online gamers and incorporates puzzle games that exercise your brain. An example that he shows in his talk is a game called “Photograb,” which is meant to enhance visual skills. The game tests your ability to recognize a magnified piece of an image by looking at the regular sized image. These types of puzzle promote brain health and may help players to avoid diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. As more people learn about and begin using puzzles as a tool to maintain brain function, the effect could be very beneficial. Overall, I think that Kim’s progressive approach to puzzle creation is very interesting and something that could make a huge impact on the future of online gaming and beliefs about brain health.

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ALTER, ALEXANDRA. “The Mind of a Master Brain Teaser.” Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition 14 May 2011: C11. Academic Search Complete. Web.
Restak, Richard M., and Scott Kim. The Playful Brain: The Surprising Science of How Puzzles Improve Your Mind. New York: Riverhead, 2010. Print.
“THE PLAYFUL BRAIN: The Surprising Science Of How Puzzles Improve Your Mind.” Kirkus Reviews 78.19 (2010): 983. Academic Search Complete. Web.
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Winkler, Peter. “Famous Puzzles Of Great Mathematicians.” American Mathematical Monthly 118.7 (2011): 661-664. Academic Search Complete. Web.

About Matthew Simonson

I am a second-year Network Science doctoral student at Northeastern University in Boston. I model homophily and time-varying dynamics on social networks.
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