A Guide to Hidden Object Games
What are Hidden Object Games?
A hidden object game is considered to be a type of puzzle, and is occasionally referred to as a hidden picture puzzle. Players of hidden object games first study a scene and then attempt to identify and gather a set of various items scattered throughout the area. The task is made increasingly more challenging by using shading and complementary colors to conceal the objects that need to be found. The difficulty of spotting the hidden object even as it sits in plain sight is a large part of the appeal of this type of puzzle game.
The difficulty of a typical hidden object game increases as each new puzzle scene or ‘stage’ is cleared. The increasing difficulty level makes solving the puzzle all the more rewarding due to the amount of work necessary for completion. Most modern hidden object games present the puzzles within the larger context of story, and players often become the main protagonist of the plot as they gather up whatever needs gathering in order to complete a specific goal within the story.
The History of Hidden Object Games
Modern hidden object games have their roots in printed materials that were initially marketed towards children specifically. The American children’s magazine Highlights has featured a hidden object picture on page 14 of every issue since 1946. The hidden picture puzzles are one of the most popular features of the Highlights magazine.
After gaining momentum through Highlights, hidden object puzzles exploded in popularity thanks to the creation of the Where’s Waldo book series, which was enjoyed equally by children and adults alike. The huge double paged illustrations in the Where’s Waldo books were incredibly confounding for searchers of all ages. Waldo’s iconic red and white striped outfit paradoxically did little to make him easier to find, and the colors red and white were often used throughout the puzzle to further confuse searchers. The hand drawn illustrations were known for their attention to detail, which made finding Waldo much like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.
The I Spy series was created afterward, and these books took a different approach to the hidden object picture than their earlier counterparts. The I Spy book series focused on using real photography or photo realistic illustrations as the backdrop for their hidden object puzzles, with the missing objects slipped into surprisingly mundane areas. The I Spy series often required the use of an actual magnifying glass in order to see the painstaking details within the picture itself.
Computers revolutionized hidden object puzzle gameplay by making the game an immersive experience that provided the player with immediate positive feedback when an object was discovered. During the Where’s Waldo craze of the 80’s and 90’s, various videogames were created based on the franchise, but none really captured the full potential of the hidden object gameplay experience.
In 2005, the first truly successful computer based hidden object game was released, titled Mystery Case Files: Huntsville. In Mystery Case Files: Huntsville, hidden object puzzles were paired with elements ofpoint and click adventure games to create an engaging interactive mystery that kept players engrossed until the very end.
Mystery Case Files Huntsville was successful well beyond expectations and served to catapult the hidden object game from relative obscurity to common knowledge. It is estimated that as many as 100 million people have tried demo versions of the titles in the Mystery Case Files series alone.
As the popularity of the Mystery Case Files series grew, so did the demand for hidden objects games on other platforms. Mystery Case Files games have been ported to the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii in addition to the standard computer platforms to serve this new gaming trend.
Who Will Like These Games?
Hidden object games don’t require the same levels of hand eye coordination as other genres such as platformers or racing, but that doesn’t mean that they are easy. They are in fact quite difficult, and many gamers don’t prefer them for this reason. Hidden object games require a tremendous amount of patience and a keen eye for details. No amount of random button mashing will solve a hidden object puzzle. Children tend to have an innate ability to notice the little things that adults tend to miss, and this is certainly part of the reason that the original hidden object pictures were targeted towards a younger audience.
Adults are motivated to work through the hidden object stages of the game due to the fact that more of the storyline will be revealed as they progress. By solving the hidden object puzzles, players are in essence solving the mystery contained within the storyline of the game itself, making this a powerful form of escapism. For this reason, those who love to disappear into a good mystery book are perfect candidates for hidden object games.
In addition, those who enjoy gameplay that involves collecting items may potentially enjoy hidden object games as well, since collecting is a huge part of the game.
The production quality of many hidden object games makes them feel and sound more like an interactive movie than a puzzle game, and for this reason they are a popular choice for people who would like to just sit back and relax after a long day. Hidden object gameplay also gives players an outlet for their creative problem solving side, since much of the game revolves around the idea of seeing beyond that which is obvious in any given scene.
Hidden object games also have the advantage of being passive when necessary, meaning that players can still attend to important matters such as phone calls and instant messages without having to shut down the entire game. This freedom makes it easier to fit gaming into a busy lifestyle, and may explain why hidden object games are particularly popular with the female 35-65 demographic, which is a group of people not generally known for taking the time to engage in casual gaming.