The Wisdom and/or Madness of Crowds is an interactive game by Nicky Case all about how ideas and trends spread. Short puzzles teach the player how popular perception changes as groups grow smaller or larger. It’s an important lesson wedged between devious brain teasers and a perfect Indie Pick.

We’ve featured Case’s work before, which used interactivity to explain why people lie and cheat. The Wisdom and/or Madness of Crowds follows a similar mold, allowing players to participate in experiments that helps explain how peer pressure and groups can affect what people think is true and what gets shared. While it first seems that ideas are like viruses that spread quickly, the truth is that they require people to be exposed to them for a certain period of time before taking hold. This can be something as innocuous as watercooler gossip or drastic as false information or habits like binge drinking.

However, the size of a group also affects what happens to an idea. If people don’t have enough connections to other people, ideas don’t spread at all but if there’s too many connections between everyone, it’s easier for groupthink to develop. The solution is to create a smaller network with enough diversity to allow complex ideas to pass. This means having connections to people with many outlooks so that nuanced ideas can form.

To get the point across, Case uses a few puzzles that task the player with spreading or preventing the propagation of ideas. It takes only about 30 to 40 minutes to crack the puzzles and get through the game but it’s a great reminder of how important it is to keep exposing yourself to new ideas and share your own.