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Eureka is not Fiero

In puzzle design, eureka—sudden, pleasureful understanding—is not the same thing as fiero—the pleasure of overcoming a difficult challenge.

Elyot Grant theorizes eureka and fiero as two orthogonal axes. Portal’s “speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out” moment is low on fiero yet high on eureka. “”Stephen’s Sausage Roll” is both difficult and high on eureka.

Within his framework, eureka is shareable: you can experience some eureka by watching someone else solve or explain a puzzle. Fiero is not shareable; it only comes from being the one to succeed.

Or, even more provactively: eureka cannot be spoiled. Only fiero can be.

Thus, the approach of making a puzzle difficult to make the player feel smart is only fiero, and not eureka. While any challenge can cause fiero, only puzzles can cause eureka, so it doesn’t feel like a satisfying way of designing a puzzle. And: satisfying puzzles are not necessarily hard ones.

The thing is, I’m not sure how sold I am on the shareability of eureka. I do think The Witness’s big eureka moment can be spoiled, or at least the moment can be diminished by being spoiled, and that’s not because it’s especially difficult, exactly.

  1. Elyot Grant. 30 Puzzle Design Lessons, Extended Director’s Cut” (external link). 1 September 2021. Accessed 29 May 2023.