Friday, October 23, 2009

On Minesweeper and Logic

I’m a fan of Minesweeper.  It’s really a pretty simple, logical game.  You get a grid of squares, you click on a square and a number, n, is revealed.  That number means there are n bombs touching that square.  For example, if you click and a 2 is revealed, then 2 of the surrounding 8 squares are bombs.  The act of logical deduction is thus used and eventually the minefield is cleared.  The Microsoft bundled Minesweeper comes with three difficulties: Beginner (which has 10 mines), Intermediate (which has 40), and Expert (which has 99).

I’ve played Minesweeper since I was in high school, and I’ve always enjoyed the mathematical rules the game must obey.  Using a logical approach, with deductive MinesweepBeforereasoning, practically any game can be solved after the initial guessing is made.  I used to believe this, especially in the Beginner and Intermediate games, but after playing Expert for a while I am forced to admit it is no longer valid.  The image to the right clearly ignores all logical reasoning and the final game is reduced to luck.  The odds that the top square will have the mine is 50%, while the odds that the bottom square is the mine is also 50%.  How can I pick one of these over the other?  Where is the logic that I so dearly love?

Sadly, it is absent.  The logic completely breaks down at this point in the game, sending my brain into overload and frustration.  And when logic fails, it’s often a strange situation we find ourselves in.

Because I’m a nerd/geek, and because I love math & science, it’s pretty obvious that my brain is structured to think logically.  If A makes B happen every time, and B is always causing a C to occur, and C sometimes results in D happening, then it’s easy to see that A will logically lead to C, but A won’t always result in D.  This thinking method is how my brain functions.  It’s my comfort zone, the way I attempt to understand life and the things therein.

Unfortunately, as in Minesweeper, there are logical breakdowns in life.  These usually enter into play when uncontrolled emotions become involved.  As an artist, I believe artwork stems from passions, and these passions are connected to how we feel about things.  Our feelings shape who we are and how we’re perceived if we act on them.  If we don’t, then part of me thinks that we are denying our natural urges, but another part of me thinks that we should be able to restrain ourselves from acting.  We can’t be stoics…

Things done with moderation are a good thing; they exercise control and give us a bit of liberty.  However, too much and we’re soon a slave to our desires, the freedom replaced with bondage.  For example, a little television is fine and perfectly accepted, but when you’re spending every waking, possible hour in front of the tube, then there is a problem.  Anything that becomes an obsession is never a good thing, in my opinion, as I think we should be free from anything that holds us down.

All of these things seem to breakdown life’s logic.  It does not make logical sense to spend 10 hours a day watching TV if you need to be doing something else.  It’s unhealthy and perceived as lazy, and I’m rather inclined to agree.  Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to spend every possible moment with your nose in a book, either, for similar reasons (though reading doesn’t typically have the “lazy” stigma attached to it.)  It does not make sense to take a drug that you know has a chance of killing you, of giving you a terrible addiction.  While we may get pleasure from doing these things, doing them in excess is a bit of a logical failure in my eyes.

I guess it all can boil back to me being an engineer.  Like most people, production is a positive thing in life, and we feel good about ourselves getting things done.  However, as an engineer, I strongly feel that efficiency is as important.  Does it make more sense to spend one hour focused on study, accomplishing a great deal, and possibly even finishing the assignment or to procrastinate, put off studying until your favorite show is over and then stay up into the night, letting your synapses burn dry and your thoughts shrivel up?  I just don’t understand life.

By no means am I above it, and I am plagued by procrastination as much as the next lad/lass.  Typically I try to accomplish things efficiently for a while, but eventually I grow tired and want to do something else (like, say, pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano).  Like Brandon said on his blog the other day, persistence is key (okay, he didn’t say it like that, but that was the meaning.)  If we press on, disciplining ourselves against our whims and desires, then we’ll find that we’re more efficient, more productive, and more logical.

Logically, persistence is how we get into our obsessions anyway.  We form our routines, doing the same thing over and over, day in, day out, and eventually we’re a ‘slave to our selves.’  Some look at the root of problems by taking that first step, that first smoke, that first look, that first whatever.  If they hadn’t did it the first time, then they wouldn’t be in the shape their in.  While I partially can agree to this opinion, the second (and third…) step is equally impactful.  Those are the ones that form the addiction.  (I know there are things in life where one time is enough to start the addiction, but these don’t work in my allegory.)

So, if persistence is how we get into our messes, it’s also the way we get out of them.  Our bodies are weak, and we can change them if we desire it enough.  If we want it more than anything, if we set our goals on truly being liberated from everything in life, then we can change.  Through persistence and repetition, never giving up even when we fail, we can rise above this world and its logical breakdowns.  We, my friends, can be free.

Afterword:  Wow, this post morphed from my original idea.  Initially I wanted to talk about how our emotions can take control of us and lead us to acting differently, lead us to being illogical, but instead I went off on other things.  I have no idea how I got on the topic of obsessions and addictions, and it seems like I have procrastination posts a lot…  Oh, and if you’re wondering how my game of Minesweeper ended, just look at the cool little smiley face man with the sun glasses at the top of the picture beneath this paragraph (woah, that’s a lot of prepositional phrases).  Yep, I got lucky.



marky said...

I'm addicted to playing Plants Vs Zombies at the moment.....With the occasional smattering of Arkham asylum on the PS3.

I tend to lean towards Spider solitaire in work. Or, actual work itself!

Two comments in the one day! I'm going for a record.;-)

David Wagner said...

I love Minesweeper! You just *know* we have to compare best times...

I also have logged hundreds (and hundreds) of games of Freecell over the years. I've only dabbled with regular solitaire and Spider solitaire....

I'm mostly playing any number of free MindJolt games on Facebook at the moment... which is odd, considering the line-up of blockbuster games gathering dust on my shelf. I farted around a bit with Bioshock and the original UT a bit tonight... and I'm counting the days until Borderlands arrives...

That reminds me... it should be here around Nov 1... crap... here I am, geared up to start work on my novel... I hope the new game doesn't get it's hooks into me. I should try to leave it unopened until the end of the month. Think I can do it?

logankstewart said...

@Marky: Plants vs Zombies? Ne'er heard of it. I used to like Spider Solitaire, but not so much anymore.

@David: Compare times. Hahaha. I love Freecell, and by love I mean then I have a semi-addiction to Freecell. Nary played any of the MindJolt games.