An architectural landscape lies partially constructed on the other end of the table. Its atmosphere begins as a thin yellow border, which will descend into smog blanketing the city. Near its middle, men march under a brick arc on horseback, bayonets pressing against their shoulders next to their tall bearskin hats. The procession is stately until we reach the plaza ahead, where one man has broken rank in panic at something unseen. The crimson of his uniform now flashes as a warning, his horse’s powerful form rearing in alarm. It is a fine detail, but only a small one, as the activity of the soldiers is but a small part of the vast London area in which it takes place. This is a partially-constructed puzzle, and it will be pieced together by the diligence of Alistair, concentrating at the table while outside it snows and snows.
The weather’s not bad enough to cause a power outage, but they do happen. Stormy winds, lightning strikes, ice climbing up trees that crack and fall. Boom, there goes the power line. It can be restored quickly, but depending on where you live, once you’re hit you might be out of luck for a while (bahhhhh, cold water!)
Our TVs and laptops are affected—what do we do? The juice on our phones won’t last forever. You could very well bring out the boards to continue your solo D&D campaign, venturing into danger on a dark, snowy path…or maybe you can pull up a puzzle and have a go at the old-fashioned organizer’s game.
Puzzles are kind of the Tetris for former times, challenging you to fit each piece exactly where it needs to be (without the pressure of a time limit). They certainly kick up a gamer’s need to reach 100%. Sure, it’s slow at first—having to sort through so many pieces. But like video games, the more you progress, the more exciting and rewarding it becomes. There is something satisfying about taking the time to build a portrait out of little cardboard pieces, all cut and curved to fit a specific spot. It’s evident in the qualities possessing Alistair as he works: patience, planning, deliberation. It wouldn’t matter if he were building London or a Crayola lookalike of a fire hydrant. He’s working on art here. Art that has been shattered and scattered inside a $9.99 cardboard box, not unlike the many pieces of a transparent purple crystal flung throughout the universe.
They’re fun little matching games that demand only a flat surface and the gift of your time. You don’t get the dopamine high-ride of blasting through space and fighting monsters with lasers, but you do get to feel the rush of kicking up your work speed as your masterpiece starts coming into view. So if the power’s out, the snow’s piled over, and you need something visual, maybe an old puzzle or two are stored away for you in the drawers. Or maybe you can get your trusty flashlight and go down the dark, creaky basement steps to see if you can work the lights back on…hey, is that a horror game I feel on the horizon?