Gaming Is a Hard Job, but Someone Has to Do It!


We establish some general schemes relating the computational complexity of a video game to the presence of certain common elements or mechanics, such as destroyable paths, collectible items, doors opened by keys or activated by buttons or pressure plates, etc. Then we apply such “metatheorems” to several video games published between 1980 and 1998, including Pac-Man, Tron, Lode Runner, Boulder Dash, Pipe Mania, Skweek, Prince of Persia, Lemmings, and Starcraft. We obtain both new results, and improvements or alternative proofs of previously known results.

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The author wishes to thank the anonymous reviewers for reading this paper carefully and making several suggestions to improve its presentation.

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Correspondence to Giovanni Viglietta.

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Viglietta, G. Gaming Is a Hard Job, but Someone Has to Do It!. Theory Comput Syst 54, 595–621 (2014).

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  • Complexity
  • Games
  • Pac-Man
  • Tron
  • Starcraft