2-Player Puzzle Box

Cecilie Stenmann Hansen, Stefan-Octavian Eremia & Vanda Závodská

2-Player Puzzle Box is an interactive art piece built with mechanical interaction at its core and the requirement of having two members of the audience interact or “play” with it. The puzzle box installation comes with two specially-designed tools that must be used by the members of the audience in order to successfully solve the puzzle box. The puzzle box can only be interacted with via the two tools. The audience may NOT directly touch the puzzle box at any time. Our aim is to show that collaboration, coordination and problem-solving is still possible even when people are physically distant from each other, just as we have been for the past two months. Once we found out that this semester’s exhibition will become an online affair, we considered for some time ways of remediating our physical puzzle box design. One approach took the form of a printed puzzle game which would be solved by two people using their preferred method of video communication through the Internet, another approach would have had us turn our physical puzzle box into a digital interactive puzzle box, much like a point and click adventure game in the vein of Myst, but due to several factors, we decided against trying to do so and instead went forward to building a scaled-down version of our initial design.

Our original physical design required building a puzzle box with one-meter sides and setting it on a stand that could revolve. Similarly, the specially-designed tools that you see on either side of the puzzle box would have been set on stands meant to facilitate their movement patterns. Due to the lock-down, we could not build anything close to the dimensions of our initial design however, thanks to the efforts of one of our group members, who had access to a personal workshop, they managed to build a scaled-down model of our installation.

Each tool is capable of doing specific things, the one on the right – the hook tool – is meant to both push and pull the sticks from within the puzzle box, while the one on the left – the swivel tool – is meant to only push them but also rotate the puzzle box on its stand. Once the interior puzzle mechanism is solved, a “secret” compartment opens up, presenting a reward to the audience. Having the scaled-down model helped not only with the fact of having an actually built piece for our semester project but it also meant that it was easily movable, which in turn meant that it could be taken to different people’s homes and have them interact with it, while not breaking any quarantine-related rules relating to the size of gatherings. This allowed us to gain some precious real-world information that we could use to evaluate our project, which we could not have had otherwise. What follows is a short video of separate pairs of people interacting with our scaled-down model.