The U.S. Air Force Made a Million-Piece Puzzle for the World to Solve

Using a 1.03-gigapixel museum image

A number of consumer brands have made jigsaw puzzles to keep their customers entertained during quarantine. But leave it to the U.S. military to go big—really, really big—with its contribution to the genre.

Working with GSD&M and development partner Active Theory, the U.S. Air Force has unveiled a ridiculously enormous virtual jigsaw puzzle online, and is encouraging the whole world to collaborate on solving it. Featuring some 1.2 million total pieces, the "Million Piece Mission" was created using a 1.03 gigapixel image (that's 1.03 billion pixels) of the fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The puzzle is divided into thousands of separate tile rooms, where individual players can earn points updated in real time on a universal leaderboard. Some part of the puzzle, of course, are harder than others. You earn points based on the number of pieces you assemble, the amount of time spent on the section, and the complexity of the image. 

You can play as a guest, or log in to unlock content, including interesting facts normally learning only by visiting the museum in person. There are also subtle recruitment messages included throughout.

"We are always looking for innovative ways to inspire and engage with the American public," says Major Ross McKnight, Chief, National Events Branch. "The 'Million Piece Mission' is a challenging and interactive way to experience the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force while learning about careers and opportunities in the Air Force. The mission will require highly motivated, independent, and mentally tough individuals with attention to detail in order to complete. Those are the exact same traits we need in the next generation Airmen and, just like the puzzle, we want the best qualified applicant with the right job at the right time."

"With school out, many camps closed, and not a lot of places to go outside yet, we hope this puzzle provides families and friends with something fun to do together, from across their living room or from across the country," says Jeff Maki, group creative director at GSD&M. "Leave it to the U.S. Air Force to make the most technologically advanced jigsaw puzzle in the world."

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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