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Puzzle solving is a common element of video games, and the Help Center states that "Puzzle solving or obstacle clearing" is on topic. Are math problems included in the definition of puzzles? Math is sometimes an element of puzzle solving in video games, but the math is typically simple or a minor element of the puzzle unless the game is strictly about math puzzles. The Mathematics Help Center states that "Solving mathematical puzzles" is on topic, would it be better to send questions that are explicitly about math there?

Example questions:

A consideration is that these particular questions come from games that are explicitly about solving mathematical problems, and this may be an important distinction. Are games that are strictly about solving math problems on topic? Would a math question from a game that is normally not about math be on topic?

This post has a few questions in it, which are really meant to explore one larger question. In summary:

Are math questions on topic?

If yes, the following questions are irrelevant. Otherwise,

  • Is there a way to distinguish between puzzles and math problems in games?
  • Are math problems better suited for Mathematics?
  • Are math questions from games strictly about solving math problems on topic?
  • Would a math question from a game that is normally not about math be on topic?
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    Any question about a puzzle, or math problem that, once solving it, advances game state in some way should definitely be on topic. – Bob2Chiv Dec 1 '17 at 17:28
  • @Bob2Chiv So if I had a game where you solve progressively more difficult math problems without any other gameplay or narrative elements, would questions about solving the problems in that game be on topic? (e.g. a screenshot of a Sudoku puzzle asking for the solution). I think part of the question might be in how "games" are defined. I haven't written an answer, but I personally agree that it should certainly be on topic for games that aren't solely about math problems. – Broneironaut Dec 1 '17 at 17:44
  • I see your distinction. I think it would depend on a program by program basis on whether or not it qualifies as a 'video game'. Meta topics like this have come up before; but I don't know if we can make any sweeping generalizations here; I certainly can't. All I can say, that it is my opinion that "Any question [that] advances game state in some way should definitely be on topic." – Bob2Chiv Dec 1 '17 at 17:57
  • Well, it's both a game and a puzzle (puzzling.stackexchange.com), though since it's about solving the puzzle, I'd say puzzling.SE would be the way to go. – aytimothy Dec 2 '17 at 3:05
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Are math questions on-topic?

Of course not. But...

This is a puzzle, more specifically: A brain teaser.

And according to our site rules...

Ask about...

  • Gameplay strategies and tactics
  • Puzzle solving or obstacle clearing
  • Game mechanics and terminology
  • Plot and characters in games
  • Game-specific hardware and utilities

It says it is on-topic (only because it's in a game), emphasis mine.

In my opinion though, this is something more suited for the Mathematics or Puzzling StackExchange simply because the problem at hand is at the end of the day: A brain teaser puzzle that needs solving.

Granted, while on-topic here, it's kinda a poor question (in regards to us as a community) for us to answer whereas the folks there (at puzzling.SE) are more geared towards that kind of stuff.


NB: If posting to Maths.SE, use the [puzzle] tag. For Puzzling.SE, use the [mathematics] and [pattern] tags (as this is a pattern and maths puzzle)

  • So questions from a game like this would be on topic? I think a point comes where just because the activity is part of an application, it doesn't really qualify as a video game. For example, if the topic of this question was available on an app store, would it then be on topic? The response to that question seemed to be a pretty hard rejection of it as a video game. – Broneironaut Dec 2 '17 at 13:22
  • @Broneironaut That's just my interpretation of the rules. In fact, I could even consider Unity a sandbox game (instead of a game engine/editor), just like Minecraft... Only that you obviously have to build a UI and models. – aytimothy Dec 3 '17 at 1:01
  • To answer your question: Yes. For example, Screeps – aytimothy Dec 3 '17 at 2:38
  • Do you find any potential harm in keeping such questions here? – Baskakov_Dmitriy Dec 3 '17 at 13:17
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    @aytimothy I would say Screeps is actually an example of what separates a game from abstract math/programming challenges. While it does require you to understand coding, the point is that the code is just the interface that you play an actual game with. If Screeps was just about coding without any gameplay elements (the "MMO RTS" mechanics), then I don't see how it would be different from Project Euler. – Broneironaut Dec 3 '17 at 14:34
  • @Broneironaut Screeps is just an interface that lets you learn coding, not a game. – Baskakov_Dmitriy Dec 3 '17 at 17:42
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    @Baskakov_Dmitriy From the Steam store page, "Screeps is an open source MMO RTS sandbox game for programmers". If you were to take the programming out and control the game like Civ or Starcraft, it would still be a game you could play. – Broneironaut Dec 3 '17 at 17:58
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Are math question on topic?

The quick answer is no.

Is there a way to distinguish between puzzles and math problems in games?

The technical definition of a puzzle game is a game in which the players ingenuity and or knowledge is tested. The player is expected to "put pieces together" in a logical way to solve the puzzle.

That would encapsulate games like minesweeper, tetris, Sudoku etc. However, if you want to separate mathematics from games we would have to exclude the games where the puzzle solving is purely math. The problem in doing this is that some people (probably the majority) on the math exchange would heavily disagree unless the objective of the puzzle is to solve Euler Circuit and 4th dimensional Vector problems. As the complexity of the puzzle increases it's better to send them to Puzzling and as the complexity of the math increases it's better to send them to Mathematics

Are math problems better suited for Mathematics?

It depends on the complexity of the math. As explained above some users in the math exchange might declare a question off topic just because it's in a game format or because it's not really about mathematics and more of a puzzle solving aspect.

Are math question about from games strictly about solving math problems on topic?

That depends upon on how you define a game. This is how I define a game:

A voluntarily entered contest between opposing players (either human or artificial) that utilizes control systems to and rules to create a disequilibrial outcome.

If the definition above can be agreed upon then we can exclude games that are strictly about solving math problems because there's no artificial opposition to the player, it's about logically solving a problem.There also isn't really a win or lose state to those types of games, at least not one that holds any endogenous meaning.

Would a math question from a game that is normally not about math be on topic?

I would say yes to most cases depending on how the question is phrased and the complexity of math. If anyone has played DATA WING found on Google Play, you'll see that this game contains a few binary number puzzles that require a little bit of math. Questions around this scope I would say are on topic.

This questions you're asking unfortunately have more to do with how people interpret the meaning of what constitutes a math puzzle and whether or not it's actually a game.

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