The concept of working your way through puzzles to relax and focus the mind isn’t new – the first “jigsaw” puzzle was invented centuries ago. And to be honest the way we completed those puzzles haven’t changed too much – yep, the number of pieces has exponentially risen, the scenes have become more interesting and that piece that “surely” fits - still doesn’t!
But VR has altered this landscape.
Slice up a cliff-faced monastery or majestic seaside town into 25 (or 400!) pieces.
Sync up with calm, meditative-esque soundscapes pulling you away from reality
Retain that necessary mind-boggling frustration when pieces refuse to fit together.
Enter Puzzling Places.
Putting the puzzle into the right places
Puzzling Places was officially released onto the Oculus store in September 2021. But prior to then it had already built a loyal Patreon following through its various iterations on SideQuest and move onto the AppLab.
Since its launch in September, Puzzling Places now comes with 16 unique scenes from the French Basque country to awe-inspiring cultural sites from around Armenia to a quick canter around the world and back to your stately manor. (And the team behind Puzzling Places have flagged more captivating scenes in the coming weeks to months!).
For each scene you have a choice between 25, 50, 100, 200 or 400 pieces – but we’d definitely recommend that you work your way up – 400 pieces might not sound like a lot – but it’ll cause some grey hairs for sure (the good resilience building kind of greys of course…!)
You can choose to immerse yourself into your construction either sitting or standing, cocooned in your own bubble as you force grip puzzle pieces towards. Think of each puzzle piece as sections of a madly ripped up 3D canvas painting - shredded into numerous pieces. The only clues you have are your intuition and a small selection of reference models that give you an idea of how it should all look put together (which you can choose to ignore if you want to challenge yourself even further!)
As you progress, the lovely in-puzzle ambience takes you away from your physical space, and as you get closer towards building your masterpiece, soundscapes que to uplift your spirits – giving you just the right amount of satisfaction that you’re on the right path!
Anecdotally, we all know puzzles are good for us. But why?
One of the reasons is that it allows you to truly focus on one thing at a time. Section by Section. Piece by Piece. Edge by Edge.
When the world is increasingly getting more demanding of our attention - multi-tasking and over-stimulated brain function puts the frontal lobe of our brain under prolonged and repeated stress. Coupled more recently with pandemic induced isolation and anxiety of the future, taking a moment to escape, and solving your way through jigsaws (or other mental puzzle activities) reduces stress by occupying and engaging the mind in a single dimension task to create a sense of calm and serenity.
Scientifically, putting together a puzzle works both hemispheres of the brain, which enhances our ability to focus and successfully placing a puzzle piece to create the wider picture encourages the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood and affects concentration, motivation, memory and motor control. Piecing together, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, refocuses the mind away from negative and stressful thoughts decreases your cortisol and blood pressure levels, making both your body and mind healthy
So, what about Puzzling Places?
Puzzling Places combines the sheer experience of completing 3D sculpted puzzles, plonking you in the middle of a gorgeous scene and the serenity of your own pastel bubble, while leaving your mind to wander and meditate its way through the solution to a satisfying beautiful masterpiece.
P.S if you enjoy Puzzling Places - leave a review on the Oculus Store after purchase to support the developers!