Monday, March 14, 2011

Mathematical Monday: Video Game Riddles

Happy Pi Day! If you're a person who finds math puzzles fun, then this post is for you. Otherwise, you'll probably just want to move along.

I feel like it's been a while since one of my computer games made me solve a math puzzle. The RPGs that I love most--the ones that make the player do more than just hack and slash--sometimes throw in riddles or other puzzles for the player to solve: Answer this riddle to pass through the door, navigate these floor tiles in the right pattern so you don't get shocked, etc. They may seem artificial sometimes (really?? killing me is your only hope of escaping this eternal prison, yet you'll let me go if I can solve your riddle?), but that doesn't mean they aren't fun. Occasionally these puzzles will involve math. Usually the math can be avoided by the fact that responses are multiple choice in these games, so you can always take a guess and reload if you were wrong. It's probably quicker that way in some cases. But where's the fun in that?

Here are three of my favorite math puzzles I encountered playing computer RPGs. Feel free to post your answers in the comments. I'll share the (exhaustive) solutions next week. Who says that you don't learn anything from video games?

Circus tent genie in Waukeen's Promenade, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
The princess is as old as the prince will be when the princess is twice as old as the prince was when the princess's age was half the sum of their present ages. How old are the prince and princess?
This is probably my favorite, due to just how confusing it sounds. If you work this one out, then you'll find that there are multiple pairs of numbers that solve it; it was only solvable in the game because it was multiple choice question. For our purposes here, I'll add that the princess is a teenager, and to clarify we're looking at whole number ages only.

Yuan-Ti in Mutamin's Challenge, Neverwinter Nights
After slaying a dragon, a group of knights gave some of the trinkets from its treasure stash to a group of fewer than ten girls to divide. While the trinkets could have been divided equally amongst the girls, they argued over how to divide it. One suggested that they divide it by family instead of by individual. In the group there were two groups of two sisters, the rest unrelated. This division would mean that the trinkets per family were five more than the trinkets per girl. Before a decision was made, one girl said she desired nothing. So her share was divided amongst the others. The shares were equal again. The suggestion of dividing the trinkets per family was withdrawn, as all were satisfied. How many girls shared in the division and how many did each get?

Battle droids on Tattooine, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
What are the next two entries in the sequence?
14 * 11-14 * 31-14 * 13-21-14 * _____ * _____
This one stumped me more than any other video game math puzzle, and the friends that I've shared it with have mostly been pretty stumped themselves. It's great.

An observation: These three puzzles are all from BioWare games. I suppose they are a large proportion of the games I play, but still, I think this reflects positively on BioWare's support of math education. I wonder if Dragon Age 2 will have any math puzzles that I can look forward to.

Solutions are up here.

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