It’s often said that if you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There is psychological research that suggests there is a lot of ground to this cliche. In this episode, I’ll explore what functional fixedness is, why it matters in video game design, and how overcoming it empowered Long Hat House to craft 2018’s Dandara.

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Game Sources:
Dandara (2018) – Long Hat House
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) – Nintendo
Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door (2004) – Intelligent Systems, Nintendo
Super Mario Odyssey (2017) – NIntendo
Megaman (1987) – Capcom
Super Mario Bros (1985) – Nintendo
Castlevania (1986) – Nintendo
Ninja Gaiden (1988) – SEGA, Atari, Team NInja
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) – SEGA, Sonic Team
Kirby’s Adventure (1993) – Nintendo
Metroid (1986) – Nintendo
Super Meat Boy (2010) – Team Meat, Edmund McMillen
Limbo (2010) – PlayDead
Cuphead (2017) – Studio MDHR
Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze (2014) – Retro Studios
Cave Story (2004) – Pixel
Celeste (2017) – Matt Makes Games
Megaman X (1993) – Capcom
Super Mario Mario 3 (1988) – Nintendo
Shovel Knight (2000) – Yacht Club

Music Sources:
Free Rap Beats – Perfect
Zelda BOTW: Shrine Theme – Manaka Kataoka; Yasuaki Iwata
Sandbox: Transistor Soundtrack – Darren Korb
Dandara’s Purpose – ThommazK
A New Hope – ThommazK
Dandara’s Legacy – ThommazK
Giant Step – Ben Prunty

Research Sources:

Controllers Control Everything: Game Maker’s Toolkit –
Brain Games: Functional FIxedness –

Additional Resources:
GameInformer – An Exclusive Look At Pokémon’s Early Design Documents
PS4 – Dualshock 4 Official Trailer
IGN: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller Unboxing
Raw Fury: Intro to Long Hat House | Dandara Developer
Dandara IOS Gameplay / Walkthrough – Fliptroniks.com

Also Special Thanks to Long Hat House for answering some of my questions!

_Welcome to Daryl Talks Games_

Hi! I’m Daryl, and on this channel I explore the intersection between video games, psychology, and real life.

I’ve talked about how Pokemon and the Generation Effect can make you a better student. I’ve made a video on why game developers really should understand functional fixedness. And I’ve interviewed some of the best speedrunners on Earth to find out how exactly they make setting world records look so easy.

Primacy and Recency, subconscious associations, classical conditioning, divergent thinking, amnesia (the disorder not the game), if its psychological concept that relates to games, I’ve probably talked about it before or will in the future. But to be clear, psychology isn’t all I talk about. Every now and then I’ll dabble in a little bit of game design and sometimes I’ll just talk about life and how games really can make it better… and for some people are the best way to relate to the world around us.

So if all that sounds like a good time to you, subscribe to my channel, watch my videos, and if you feel so inclined, show a friend! If you take a look at my videos, I truly hope that you learn something or are entertained and that your day is better after watching!

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49 thoughts on “Why Video Game Developers Should Understand Functional Fixedness | Psych of Play

  1. A huge thanks to Leo Inis for providing the Portuguese subtitles for this video!
    Este vídeo agora tem legendas em português! Agradecimentos especiais a Leo Inis pela tradução!

    Hey everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. Dandara's developers are from Brazil and ton of the game's visuals are inspired by Brazilian art and architecture. According to Youtube Analytics, a small portion of my viewers also call Brazil home. I know that Dandara is really big there, and I would love nothing more than for this video be shared with anyone there regardless of their native language. Unfortunately I know absolutely zero Portuguese, and I would hate for google translate to butcher the video's meaning.

    That said, if you are one of my Brazilian viewers and you're bilingual, it would mean the world to me if you could provide the Portuguese translations for this episode in the youtube Closed Captions section. If you could help me with this, I would be incredibly grateful and will give you a huge shout-out in the next video. I can do everything in my power to help you get started as well. If you're willing and able, please feel free to shoot me a message on YouTube.

    Thanks again for watching everyone! A gente se fala! (I really hope that means what I think it does lol…)

  2. I came to the solution of breaking the candle into three pieces, pounding one third flat, Sticking two together by melting the side with a match, sticking the flattened piece to the bottom of the first two, melting several holes in one of the two unflattened candles, sticking the thumbtacks into the melted holes, pointy side out and then adding the wax back to weld the thumbtacks into the candle. Mount the entire thing with the embedded thumbtacks and light the wick. The flattened base would then catch the wax.

  3. My solution was to pin the candle to the wall with tacks, but disassemble the matchbox and put that underneath to try to catch wax. I wasn't sure if I should feel smart for thinking outside the box or stupid for not just using the tack box.

  4. Just punch the wall just above the table, stuff he candle in and put tacs on it, put the tac box under the candle. Tadaa, floor is drip free since candle is dripping onto the box on the table.

  5. Amusingly my clever solution for the candle was to pin the candle to the wall but place the box underneath it to collect the wax. Which also works but is more difficult then just placing the candle in the box.

  6. revisiting this video i remember that it was because of you that i bought the game, alongside with other reasons like: i'm brazilian and i want more brazilian studios making games; my history teacher told the story of Zumbi dos Palmares and the name of his wife was Dandara which he had like a small empire inside brazil in the second half of 1800 basically, so that was the reasons for me to buy this game

  7. I assumed the tacks were a red herring so my plan was to melt the side of the candle and stick it to the wall. If the materials were in front of me I might have realized I had the box to work with as well, but I would probably use it to catch the wax rather than hold up the candle.

  8. I feel kinda dumb to not have thought of the box to hold the candle when i was able to think of a plan involving putting 3 tacks in the wall in a triangle formation as to make a mounting "port" then one tack in in the candle so i can slide the tack stuck in the candle in the middle of my triangle of tacks in the wall, and then putting tacks in the bottom of the candle in a way to make a receptacle for the wax 😡

  9. Good video, but your puzzle at the beginning is so wrong.
    1. No way will a flimsy tack box orthogonal to the wall hold a candle upright.
    2. There's a table. Why can't the candle drip on that? If you meant you didn't want the candle to drip on the table too, you should have said that.
    3. Putting a candle in a box is not the same as "attaching it to the wall."

  10. my solution was actually putting the candle in the box, and just pushing it to the wall, and lighting it. whether its on the floor or on the table it never drips on the floor.

  11. Since i'm not a native english speaker i didn't know what a "box of tacks" meant. Now i feel betraied – i will never know if i would figured it out by my own.

  12. Ha Daryl! You think your so clever abouy the candle question, but I solved it easy peasy!

    Hang the candle upside down with a convoluted mess of tacs so all the wax drips down and position the box under it. Easy!

    Seriously though, great video. And yes, that was my actual thought process.

  13. The solution you had was literally what I did. Though I also had the tack going from under the box into the candle for support….

  14. Attaching the box to the wall was literally the first solution I came up with. I thought to myself, "that can't be the solution Daryl has in mind, because it's too obvious."

  15. Your solution was flawed because I viewed the box as a thick wooden box that would not be pierced by a thumbtack. Instead I unfolded the paper around the matches and wrapped it around the candle to create a sconce for the candle that could be thumbtacked in place. All that was left was to fold up the bottom of the paper to catch the wax.

  16. Oh my god I actually had the solutions for the task at the beginning figured out alone. Altough I was doubting if the box would be able to hold the candle itself or would rip or tear since it wasn't made to hold something as heavy as a candle.

  17. your specifications were that the candle itself was counted to the wall, and that it didn't drip wax. period. neither of those criteria are met by your solution. the candle will still drip and flow wax into the box and the candle is not mounted to the wall. if we take your solution as a correct solution to the problem, simply placing the candle on the floor is also a solution. the floor is mounted to the walls, and it will not melt exactly the same way it would in the box.

  18. Great video, thanks! Although it was clear from the first minute play that Dandara was game devolopped for a mobile device: controls and resources tells it loud 🙂 Actually the game works wonderfully on an iPhone 6. I agree, it's great to see how such simple brilliant idea blossoms a mobile game into one of landmark game for the metroid genre

  19. Another solution for the riddle at the beginning: You put x tacks inside the candle on one vertical line. You need to keep a bit of distance between the head of the tack and the candle, don't put them fully in. Now put x tacks with the same height differences onto the wall twice, with the 2 rows having a distance > the candle thiccness and < the match length from each other. You also need to not put them fully inside the wall, as you're gonna put a match on every pair of tacks. Now, you can put the candle onto this construction – the tacks of the candle are put on the matches on the wall (bc you left enough distance between the head of the tacks and the candle)

    That is at least what I came up with first

  20. I'm playing Dandara on Android, and I'm blown away by its creativity. It's a really fresh way to control a platformer, especially on a touchscreen where after a bit of training, swiping and flicking becomes almost effortless. Great video, top quality. I know this is late but keep up the great work

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