Sample Dialogue from
Image © Headbone Interactive, Inc. Used with permission.
Escape from Dimension Q
Puzzle: This woman could have helped you
J (fourth grade) and K (third grade), two boys, are playing the second puzzle in Escape from Dimension Q. They must arrange puzzle pieces into a picture that makes sense, by sliding the pieces within a rectangular frame.
The boys have been working on this puzzle for almost five minutes. J works intently with the mouse, leaving K little way to help other than to offer the occasional bit of advice. The game is mostly silent, but occasionally pipes up with comments from two characters in the game, Iz and Auggie ("Just keep plugging away" or "You're definitely making progress"). This annoys the boys, who admonish the computer -- "You said that already" and "I know, be quiet. I'm fed up with you." They spend so much time on this puzzle that they actively worry about whether or not this is a timed activity.
In terms of strategy, the boys look for parts of the puzzle that "look good" -- pieces that seem to be in the right position -- a good initial strategy. Part of what makes this puzzle difficult is that players need to envision the finished whole. It is also a challenge to figure out how to move the pieces, particularly when you have to move pieces that are already in the right place. The boys initially use a somewhat random approach -- shuffling pieces around until they look right.
--K: That doesn't go there.
--J: No this goes here.
--Game: This isn't exactly easy.
--J: Yes it is, now. ... Wait a minute
--K: Something's fishy.
--J: Obviously. Like I noticed. Like I think I did, notice, once upon a time. Should I give up?
--K: No let's try.
--J: I'm just gonna shuffle this around a while.
--K: I think you had something on there.
--J: Look this
--K: That goes there
--J: But, oh! I know now. But the problem is getting it there. Do you know what the problem is? (K: What?) Oh wait I wonder if, can you like switch things?
--K: Try using the arrows.
Although they can't "switch things" -- make two pieces trade places -- J now seems to be more sure of what needs to move where. He realizes he needs help keeping track of this information and asks K for help. This puzzle helps kids see the need for keeping track of information. It also encourages them to pay attention to visual cues in order to see how pieces fit together, and to predict the results of various geometric motions (if I slide this piece here, what will the picture look like then?).
--J: No, wait. ...This reminds me, will you, remind me sometime that I'm trying to get this (pointing) this you see that right? I'm trying to get that over here, to this side.
--K: You could try to move something else around, up there.
--J: No, no I don't want to, I don't quite think that will work that way.
--K: All right.
--J: I know.
--K: You have it?
--J: I think I'm about to get it. (He successfully solves it. "See, look!")
--K: Yeah! (He dances to the music, then sits back to hear more of the story.)
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