Games, Puzzles, and Computation

by Bob Hearn

There is a fundamental connection between the notions of game and of computation. At its most basic level, this is implied by any game complexity result, but the connection is deeper than this. One example is the concept of alternating nondeterminism, which is intimately connected with two-player games.

I develop the idea of game as computation to a greater degree than has been done previously. I will present a general family of games, called Constraint Logic, which is both mathematically simple and ideally suited for reductions to many actual board games. A deterministic version of Constraint Logic corresponds to a novel kind of logic circuit which is monotone and reversible. At the other end of the spectrum, a multiplayer version of Constraint Logic is shown to be undecidable. That there are undecidable games using finite physical resources is philosophically important, and raises issues related to the Church-Turing thesis.

I will also apply the Constraint Logic formalism to many actual games and puzzles, providing new hardness proofs. These applications include sliding-block puzzles, sliding-coin puzzles, plank puzzles, hinged polygon dissections, Amazons, Konane, Cross Purposes, TipOver, and others. Some of these have been well-known open problems for some time. For other games, including Minesweeper, the Warehouseman's Problem, Sokoban, and Rush Hour, I either strengthen existing results, or provide new, simpler hardness proofs than the original proofs.

Back to the LCI Forum page