Fighting Censorship in a Puzzly Way!

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[Image courtesy of Business Insider.]

One puzzly video game arena we haven’t covered much in the blog is Minecraft, save for ThinkFun’s Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle. If you’ve never heard of it, Minecraft is a blocky adventure/building game where you can create virtually anything, given enough time, patience, and cleverness.

There are galleries online exploring the massive, intricate, and honestly mind-blowing structures puzzlers have built in Minecraft. You’ll see everything from meticulous recreations of famous landmarks, fictional buildings brought to life (like the castles from Lord of the Rings), and wholly original designs that demanded dozens of hours to realize.

The game has even moved beyond the digital realm, expanding into novels, LEGO sets, and more. Minecraft conquered the world through creative expression, and now, the virtual playground of Minecraft is becoming a safe haven for free speech and self-expression as well.

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[Image courtesy of the Uncensored Library.]

BlockWorks, a team of gamers, architects, and designers, teamed up with Reporters Without Borders to launch a space online for people in countries suffering from online censorship to access books and articles that are banned through the usual channels.

The loophole allows them access through the shared Minecraft servers to bypass the firewalls and other systemic tools of oppression that hamper free speech and equal freedom of information.

This collective space is known as the Uncensored Library.

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[Image courtesy of the Uncensored Library.]

According to an article about the Uncensored Library, “journalists from five different countries now have a place to make their voices heard again, despite having been banned, jailed, exiled and even killed.”

So how does it work?

Forbidden articles penned by the above journalists have been republished in books within the Minecraft world, where readers can find them censorship-free.

By adding more articles and books to the Uncensored Library, BlockWorks and RWB hope to increase access to information and encourage users around the world to “stand up for their right to information.”

It’s a remarkable idea, an incredibly clever way to use the world’s most popular video game to battle oppression, and yet more proof that there’s absolutely nothing a puzzly mind can’t accomplish.


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle

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[Note: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Minecraft is one of the biggest indie video game success stories of the last twenty years. A simple block-style game about building things (and destroying things) is now a multimedia empire, complete with toys, LEGOs, and of course, video games across numerous platforms.

It was only a matter of time before it made the leap to puzzles, and as it turns out, the clever folks at ThinkFun were just the designers to bring Minecraft into a puzzlier world.

Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle pits the player against devious deduction puzzles with elements of the Minecraft universe included. By using the clues provided on each challenge card, the player must arrange three swords, pickaxes, and pieces of armor (all different colors, making nine unique game pieces) on the 3×3 crafting table in a particular pattern.

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Completing the grid is the only way to bypass the ender dragon (who is placing these challenge obstacles in your path) and continue onto the next world in your journey.

The instructions, puzzles, solutions, game board, and pieces are all contained within the single spiral-bound game book, making this one of ThinkFun’s most portable products yet. The magnetic pieces are fairly sturdy, as is the game board, so it will hold up nicely to the rigors of travel (and being stuffed into various carry-on bags).

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The gameplay itself is all about interpreting the clues provided with each challenge card. Some clues offer hints on where to place pieces according to color, others according to shape. Additional clues center around a given piece’s location on the grid or in relation to another piece.

For instance, in Beginner Challenge #5 in the image below, the solver gets two hints: one about color and the other about the game pieces.

All three of the blue pieces will be placed along the diagonal, according to the first hint. And according to the second hint, a piece of armor will be in the upper right corner and a pickaxe will be in the middle square. Combining these two hints tells us where to place the blue armor and blue pickaxe. And since only one blue gamepiece is left, the blue sword goes in the lower left corner.

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Similarly, the combination of the yellow square in the center of the top row in the first hint and the sword image in the center of the top row in the second hint tells us where to place the yellow sword. Once that’s in place, we look at the remaining sword image on the second hint and know where to place the gray sword.

The gray square in the upper left corner of the first hint and the pickaxe image in the upper left corner of the second hint point to where to play the gray pickaxe (and the yellow pickaxe by process of elimination).

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With two game pieces left and one unoccupied yellow square in the first hint, the solver can easily complete this challenge, besting the ender dragon’s latest obstacle and moving forward.

Once you graduate from the Beginner and Intermediate difficulty levels, you’ll face a new wrinkle: negative clues. Negative clues are layouts that must be avoided, so instead of telling you where to place a piece, they tell you expressly where NOT to place a piece, ratcheting up the difficulty.

For instance, in Advanced Challenge #25, the negative hints tell us that a gray gamepiece can never be directly below and to the right of a blue gamepiece, or above and to the left of a yellow gamepiece.

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These restrictions will prove to be valuable hints going forward, often telling a savvy solver more about the layout of the crafting table than the regular clues!

By gradually teaching deductive reasoning — slowly introducing new ways to provide information and eliminate possibilities — the solver quickly grasps a key component of strategy and planning: “If this, then that” thinking.

This sort of cause-and-effect observation allows a solver to hold several pieces of information in your head at once, eliminating red herrings and unhelpful possibilities until you’re left with one solution that fits all the requirements. (Just as every Sudoku puzzle is an exercise in deduction, so is every challenge card in Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle.)

Fun for younger solvers and older alike, ThinkFun’s latest deduction puzzle game turns Minecraft into Mindcraft, adding a valuable puzzly tool to the arsenal of every solver.

Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle is available from ThinkFun and certain online retailers.


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!