Our focus this week in Learning & Cognition class has been problem-solving. This week I have been challenged to play with the following website: http://archives.obs-us.com/obs/english/books/holt/books/maze/, reflect upon problem-solving and creativity, and spend time solving a problem or doing something creative. This challenge could not have come at a better time because I have been writing a research paper on problem-solving, and it served as a refreshing diversion as well as opportunity to reflect upon the paper from a different perspective.
First, I followed the link to the website and read the directions on how to play the game. It’s basically a website hyperlink maze taking you from one page to another, but the goal is to make your way from the 1st page to the 45th page and back in 16 moves. It reminds me a lot of the text-based MUDs from my bachelor degree days having to type every movement you want to make. Although the directions said to read the story for each room because it could give you clues to the next move, I found this to be of no help to me whatsoever, so I decided this problem needed to be solved in a different way. It made sense to me that if it’s just 45 websites and they all have links to other sites, what if I just mapped it out to find the best path. I remember having to take notes and make maps on video games I’d played in the past – particularly the Gabriel Knight games, Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster, and Myst. So I started mapping the rooms and how they link together on a piece of paper. After quite a while, I found that some rooms can immediately link back to where you had come from, while others did not. At this point, I felt as though this might be important to finding the most efficient route to room 45 and back, and perhaps the path may not be a perfect round-trip. So I started my map over again, this time indicating what I had learned. The result is pictured here.
Well, I must have messed up somewhere or it just became too complicated, because I could never find room 45. I then realized this was a maze, and as a child, I would often solve mazes backwards – it just seemed faster sometimes. I noticed the website addresses have the room number in them, so I simply changed the number to 45 and my hypothesis worked! From there, I tried to map backwards using the same methods as before (you can see this in the upper right corner. Although I found all the rooms this way, I never could find the connection. However, I did find what might be an error in the links – I’m not sure if it’s intentional or a mistake: when in room 44, the player is given two choices room 18 and room 21, and when room 18 is selected, it takes the player to room 11. At this point, I had to give up and return to the research paper. My interest in methodically mapping out the maze gave me a break from working on the research paper for at least two days, which gave me personal insight into many of the topics I was researching: well-defined vs. ill-defined problems, approaches to problem-solving such as methodical strategies and simple trial and error, time constraints, and reflections periods. I felt the creative activity of writing was enhanced by the activity. But then again . . . perhaps I just wanted to procrastinate!