SnoutCast #25: "Puzzled Pint #1 Debrief" (around minutes 17-19 or so) talks about folks who say "I could never do one of those puzzle-hunt things; the puzzles are too hard." And if you're a BANG enthusiast, you'll say "Aw c'mon, it's not too hard. GC, like, playtested this thing. We'll get it, don't worry." But, as DeeAnn points out in that SnoutCast, those folks don't exactly mean "That puzzle is too hard." They mean something more like "I don't want to do that."
I've dragged some of my in-real-life friends along on puzzle hunts. Some of them had a good time, but they didn't all have a good time. If I had to choose a moment to guess whether one of these people would have a good time, I would...
Look at their face when you first pull a puzzle out of an envelope. The puzzle shouldn't look like a "classical" puzzle. At that moment, the puzzle makes no sense and nobody knows what to do. Look at the players' faces. How do they react?
Me, I get a thrill in that situation. Curiosity; adrenaline rush from getting in "over my head"; some lizard-brain reflex to attack things I don't understand. I don't know where the thrill comes from, but I know it's there. I like these games because they force me to stretch; sometimes I won't be able to stretch far enough, but overall I'm having a blast...
Some folks seem to retreat, though. Here I attempt to put
words in their mouth thoughts in their brain: There are already so many situations in life where you don't know what to do but have to act anyhow; opportunities to fail. Why on earth would I voluntarily put myself in such a situation?
It sounds like I'm insulting these people, saying that they're dummies who can't handle a challenge, but that's not what's going on. Some of these people are smarter than I am, and they still react to these puzzles as "too hard". (Maybe because they're smarter than I am, they're not accustomed to being in situations where they don't know what to do?) They can handle the confusion, but they don't enjoy it.
"Too hard" can be a shorthand for one of several things. People aren't going to tell you exactly what they're thinking when they bow out. We don't really know what's going on in our own heads. Language can't express it that well. And our friends don't want to hurt our feelings; "too hard" is more polite than "not fun." But out of all the polite things they could think of to say, "too hard" is probably trying to express something. I kinda think it's trying to say "I don't enjoy being confused."