Why Numbers Are More Important in Gaming Than You Probably Thought
When you play games, you do it for fun. They’ve become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in recent years as more and more of us pick up a controller, mouse, or smartphone and start playing.
Modern video games are marvels of human endeavour, providing beautiful visuals; realistic physics, and immersive gameplay that will keep you entertained for hours.
But while you’re playing, you probably don’t spare much thought for what goes into making a game of that size or scale. Yet, the reality is that it takes huge teams thousands of hours to create modern titles.
Numbers in Gaming
The work that goes into making games is varied; there are graphic designers, animators, motion capture specialists, and programmers. A lot of what they do involves numbers, even for things you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
This is because numbers are integral to gaming. They are used to create games, control games, and even display games.
Some of the ways in which numbers fit into the titles we play probably seem obvious, but others may not.
Of course, the most noticeable use of numbers in games is when they are a major part of the playing experience. For example, Sudoku is a number puzzle that requires the player to fill out a grid with individual digits between 1-9.
Similarly, the board game Scrabble uses numbers by assigning different values to each letter; and adding multipliers to the board to increase the score you can get.
Roulette takes this even further as it’s not just numbers that are involved but also fractions and probabilities. The game involves players making predictions about where a ball will land on a wheel with differently numbered pockets.
The number of pockets on the wheel alters the likelihood of the ball landing on any single number when it’s spun. It is important to consider that there are differences between the European and American variants; which also made their way online on specialized platforms and are still played in land-based casinos. In both modalities and all variants, players need to consider the fact that even-money options like red or black are more likely to win but there are larger rewards for selecting narrower outcomes.
It is, therefore, a game that’s entirely built around different mathematical concepts; and players must understand them to devise the best playing strategies.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be an AOIME-level mathematician to learn these strategies as most of us will have learned basic probabilities and arithmetic at some point.
Geometry is the border zone where numbers and art meet and it’s an incredibly important area for gaming.
All video games, even the ones that have beautiful graphics which can almost look like photographs; use a collection of shapes to draw what you see on screen. Known as “polygons”, these 2D objects are brought together with different colours to create 3D objects and backgrounds.
The game and its developers have to use complex calculations and pinpoint coordinates to create the objects you see on screen.
Thankfully, modern game engines can do a lot of the heavy lifting for the developer; but they still need to have a strong understanding of how it all works.
There is a lot of talk about AI today, not just in relation to gaming. However, in the gaming space, AI usually refers to the way NPCs behave.
Whilst it’s not generally “true artificial intelligence” that is used; if their actions are programmed well enough then they can certainly appear to have a degree of brain power.
These characters use a system of “pathfinding” to move around the map; with various different mathematical approaches used to direct them to where they need to go.
A primitive example of this can be found in Rollercoaster Tycoon. When a guest enters the maze ride, a set of probabilities is used to help them decide which way to go. However, due to a bug in the coding, mazes can actually become impossible for NPCs to solve if they’re designed in a certain way.
More advanced methods of pathfinding use a set of “costs” to allow the computer to calculate the best route to the endpoint.
That isn’t the only thing that AI can do, though. It’s also used in a process called “procedural generation” to make maps on the fly. This allows players to get a new experience every time they play while not requiring the developers to create millions of individual maps.
In all cases, the AI relies heavily on numbers and mathematics to work and give us