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Is Playing Nintendo as Hard as Math?

Playing Super Mario Bros. Is Way More Complex Than You Ever Thought

A team of researchers has confirmed what you've long suspected known about playing Nintendo games. The researchers at MIT, the University of Ottawa, and Bard College published a study stating that playing Nintendo is a "complex" problem.

Researchers are referring to a certain class of problems, known as PSPACE, that include the famous traveling-statesmen problem and factoring large numbers. Nintendo games have those types of problems, which means they're just as complex. Although it's unclear if those who can factor large numbers can also complete in levels of Nintendo, it does require the same brain power.

The researchers were also able to demonstrate that Nintendo levels could be equated to "any computational problem," which other papers were not able to do in the past. It's a little confusing, but basically, the team was able to show how a level of Super Mario Bros. ostensibly has two paths: one that you can pass and one that you can't. It functions a little bit like computer memory, which also has two potential paths: a closed or open circuit. For example, a barrier in Super Mario Bros. represents a "locked door," which equates to a closed circuit.

While the results of this study do not magically reveal a trick to beating all of Super Mario Bros.'s levels, it does signal a shift in the study of "real-world physical systems" since video games are not that different from computational models. Plus, as one professor involved in the study said, "It's a simple, natural way to attract students to study this specific topic." One thing is certain: no level of Nintendo will ever be as hard as this nerve-racking "simple" math equation.

Image Source: Everett Collection
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