The puzzle of writing puzzles

This Princess and the Frog puzzle has gorgeous colors.

Recently, I’ve discovered how important puzzles are in my life. When I decided to try writing a game, I was immediately overwhelmed by how to start. Do I begin with gameplay, characters, world-building, or something else? Then I realized that my favorite games revolve around logical problem-solving, so I should begin by researching the art of making puzzles.

To start with what I know, I mined my past for examples of games and puzzles I’ve enjoyed. From there, my goal was to draw on my own experiences and leverage my existing writing/design skills to create a set of puzzle-writing guidelines.

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Harry Potter and why we play games we hate

My feelings about Jam City’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery mobile game can be summarized by this Reddit quote:

“I tell my friends all the time, ‘hey the new HP game is just the worst! Seriously. I play it every day, you should download it. But it’s the worst game I’ve ever played in my life and I absolutely hate it. It’s not fun at all. I play it every day!'”

I found this contradictory love-hate sentiment so fascinating that I had to investigate its cause. There must be some reason that I and so many other Hogwarts Mystery players spend hours playing a game that we complain about daily.

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Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

Designed by yours truly
Designed by yours truly

July 31st is Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s birthday. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read all seven Harry Potter books, which is a yearly summer tradition for me.

I grew up with Harry Potter. I was too young to appreciate the first few books when they were published, but by the time Goblet of Fire hit the Costco bookshelves, I was a huge Potter fan. And unlike the Simpsons, the Harry Potter characters gradually shed their childish voices as they go through puberty and mature into adults.

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Netflix and blogging: TV shows I’ve watched

LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 29: "Who Wants To Be A Godparent" "” When Lily and Marshall can't decide on godparents for Marvin, they put the gang to the test to see who would make the best one, on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, Oct. 15 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
The HIMYM gang. Image credit: CBS.

Whether I’m meeting someone new or catching up with an old friend, one subject always comes up in the conversation: what TV shows have I watched? It’s been difficult for me to remember all of them, so here’s a list of shows I’ve enjoyed or are currently enjoying:
(Disclaimer: wow, it sure looks like I watch way too much TV. I promise I do work sometimes.)

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Two viewings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I usually don’t write about movies, but I’ve been discussing Star Wars so much with family and friends that I might as well write down all my thoughts. A few days before I watched The Force Awakens, I re-watched the first six movies in machete order (which leaves out The Phantom Menace, so I really only watched the first five movies).

I watched The Force Awakens in theaters twice, so I’ll be placing my comments for each scene side by side.

I’m publishing this pretty late, but as a courtesy, there will be spoilers. Enjoy! 

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My chosen wall calendar 2016: Wicked

Photo from

Every year, I carefully choose a new wall calendar that represents who I am or who I want to be. Here’s how I made my choice for 2016:

Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz was the first Broadway musical that I remember watching live, and even sitting in a seat with an obstructed view did nothing to dampen the thrill of the show. I got goosebumps every time Elphaba’s voice soared high, or whenever the whole cast sang together. I bought the overpriced soundtrack CD, memorized all the lyrics, and delighted in spotting all the clever wordplay. Later, I found the soundtrack score and played the songs on the piano. I was obsessed.

That was six years, a lifetime, ago. In the meantime, I’d forgotten about my passion for Wicked. The last time I remember singing “The Wizard and I” was freshman year in the dorm shower stall.

So when I saw the Wicked 2016 calendar sitting on the shelf at the Valley Fair Mall, I felt like I had neglected a long lost friend. It was guilt that prompted me to buy the calendar, even though it wasn’t the prettiest I’d ever seen.
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