Alien Game

"When you play a game—if you learn to be good at it—you find what it is you should have been thinking about"–John Conway

Play the game to help us figure out what WE should be thinking about when trying to understand how people solve complex problems.

How do people

solve complex


Game Rules

In the Alien Game, you need to find the right solution to the Alien puzzle. Use the menu to select possible moves (single-flip, multi-flip, I'm feeling lucky) to generate new solutions to the puzzle. Keep in mind that the solution which gives you a higher score will be the basis for subsequent moves until you use the 'I'm feeling lucky' option. Good luck!

Science behind

There is a long tradition of social science looking into human problem solving as an optimization problem, i.e. people try to improve their performance by paying attention to what they've done in the past, much like some computer algorithms. Yet, humans seem so much better at it (Carruthers and Stege 2013).

How do they do it? Answering this question might help us to design better algorithms to solve very complicated problems like how to design a quantum computer.


Hundreds of people have played the Alien Game to create almost 40,000 data points.

Thanks to your help we were able to, for example, identify how individuals play the game vs how computer models do it, what is the role of cognitive styles. In addition, we were able to refine the game to get better and more meaningful data.

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