Just a Little Insight Into My World of DIY Auto Repair (and How it Relates to Myst)

I have a 2001 Volkswagen Golf GTI (which probably shouldn’t be called a GTI, but it’s what I’ve got). For about 6 months the central locking couldn’t unlock the hatch and I had to use the key isntead. I recently replaced the hatch and that didn’t fix the problem, so I developed one of my obsessive episodes and spent some time dismantling two lock mechanisms in an attempt to find the problem. I finally figured it out and made a video about it.


I assumed the problem was electrical because Golf’s have all sorts of electrical problems, especially around the hatch. That’s why I figured the new hatch would solve it (I needed to replace it because of rust). Unfortunately the part that was broken was also the only part that I needed to bring over from the old hatch…the lock. I was fortunate to have the lock from the new hatch to play with, but because the missing part was just a tiny ball bearing I didn’t noticed it fall out while I was taking it apart.

The reason that I was able to figure this out is that I assumed everything was there for a reason. I had initially dismissed the notch where the missing bearing was supposed to go as a remnant of a design change or some such thing. When I changed my thinking and decided that it MUST serve a purpose, suddenly the solution was pretty close to bleeding obvious. That reminded me about Myst.

One problem with raising kids on video games is that most games are arbitrary. It is common for people to say “I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go next” or “I’m not sure what weapon I’m supposed to use on this guy”. The player’s aren’t trying to reason about the mechanics of the universe, they are trying to figure out what the developer was thinking. The real world is not like this, because nature is a machine not a consciousness. Myst is special in that rather than trying to work out what the DEVELOPER was thinking they are trying to figure out what the fictional character who built the machines was thinking. In a sense these are the same thing, but they are very different in one important respect: the player and the builder are following the same rules.

When approaching a puzzle in Myst, you are best off thinking like an engineer. The machines are designed to obey the laws of physics and perform certain tasks. The player’s job is to work out what tasks those are and how the machine does them. This can be done through pure natural reasoning, and that makes it a wonderful learning exercise. It helps us develop very useful skills for tackling everyday problems, like say fixing a broken lock. In my experience, very few games work this way. While many puzzle games are about understanding mechanisms (and are skill-building in their own right), very few of them ask you to start from something that has already been built and understand it in an abstract and value-laden way. The closest thing I can think of is Antichamber, though that is once again a slightly different kind of puzzle solving.

Fixing cars is hard. I need a sandwich.

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