Video Game Probability: Introduction

A big theme of my computer-science-related content is that I have a hard time understanding concepts unless they’re connected to a real-world use case. I was required to take introduction to probability to complete my degree, and I really struggled because of the abstractness of terms like “geometric distribution” and “expected value.” I didn’t do enough work to understand how probability could connect back to real problems I’d want to solve, so I didn’t manage to internalize its value or develop an intuition for it.

(It took me weeks to understand that “expected value” really meant something like “weighted average” because I didn’t make the connection and no one pointed it out to me… those weeks were tough.)

Probability still doesn’t really come up at work a lot now (phew!), but I still wish I’d paid more attention because it keeps coming up in video games that I’m playing. And while I have enough vocabulary saved up to know what to look up to solve a problem, I haven’t practiced enough to be able to work out the math quickly. So I’m going to start sharing a couple of problems that interest me in hopes of helping out anyone who’s in my shoes.

I make no promises on how frequently I’ll add to this series, but I’m hoping to cover situations in Hearthstone (calculating lethal, chances of drawing a certain outcome) and Stardew Valley (growing certain crops, lightning). I’m open to requests for well-defined and motivated problems in your favorite video games too!

Here’s the index of posts in this series:

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