Visual Thinking

Visual abilities allow us to see the world in different ways. Optical illusions are a type of playful objects, where the image is tricking our brain to see things that cannot be possible. The Penrose Triangle is a typical example of one of these mind-bending images—if you look at it carefully, you'll realize that the figure is physically impossible.


Based on this geometrical figure M.C. Escher used isometric perspective to create impossible buildings in lithographs such as Waterfall. Escher's works were a direct influence in games like Echochrome or, more recently, Monument Valley, where players have to learn the logics of buildings that cannot be built in the real world but are feasible in the virtual. The challenge can also consist of finding things that are right in front of us but we cannot see them at first– again, seeing the world in a new way. There is a tradition of images hiding images – for example, can you find the four tigers in this picture?

Videogames have also used hidden images as a way to provide challenges—the genre of hidden object games revolves around finding specific objects in a crammed space. The Last Symphony is one of these games, and you can play it online. (Full disclosure: I worked on it.)


We have already talked about finding patterns as an essential activity for mind gamers. Having a good eye for visual patterns also helps with other games. Jigsaws challenge us to match pieces whose shapes complement each other and complete an image when they are all in place—they can much more challenging if there is not an image that we are completing. Could you solve a puzzle like this?


A sharp eye and a keen mind will provide you with the essential skills to tackle all the visual challenges of mind games.

About the Author

Clara Fernández-Vara is the co-founder of Fiction Control, a narrative design company, and Associate Arts Professor at the NYU Game Center. She's a game designer and writer as well as an academic, so her work combines scholarship with the creation of narrative games both for research and in the commercial sphere.