At a friend's recommendation, I borrowed a coworker's copy of *Picross DS*. It's an interesting puzzle game, and has a bevy of strategies and inferences to make. I hadn't done picrosses before, so it's been fun to figure out how to play. Even if it's basic strategy, you can mark all the boxes in the overlap of all a segment's possible positions. *Picross DS* also makes it fun with the themed puzzles and pixel art animations you get for solving puzzles. So the past few days I've found myself awake for an extra hour until it just hurts to try to figure out the matrices and I start making mistakes.

This is right after I found myself, having left my iPod at someone's house, regularly playing *Brain Age*'s sudoku. Partly that's what had me buy it in the first place, having not been convinced I would stick with a brain exercise regimen (and I was right). Though I'm not a big sudoku fan, I like puzzles enough that it seemed worth it at the time. (I'm a big enough fan of zany art direction that if *Dr. Sudoku* were a DS title with Brain Age's intuitive interface, I would have bought it with zero hesitation.)

I was playing it to the point that I finally figured out some new strategy. Before, I played mechanically; on several occasions my thinkmeats were useless enough that I simply charted out on the convenient touch screen the possibilities, and tried to *compute* the solution. I would try to solve them "for real" first, sure, but eventually I hit a wall on page two of the puzzles. Through the design of the puzzles, I could tell they were teaching me to note what *potential pairs* there are, so if one is filled in, I automatically know what the other is. To show these pairs is also the first time I had to put potential numbers out of order. Until then, I had put each potential number in its nominal grid space, and was constantly annoyed that Brain Age would let me put any number in any portion of the square.

Another thing I learned is how important it is to *ignore useless information*. When trying to compute the puzzle, you literally write down every possibility, and with all those numbers, can't pick out where in the board the next inference is. That became downright necessary when I started working with potential pairs, as I had to see the actual numbers, not just the positions. I still use the puzzle as a workbook—a prosthetic headspace—but now I try to keep my head clear so I have space to *reason* about the puzzle.

And these learning experiences is what makes puzzle games satisfying.

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