September 07, 2005

Tetris and mathematical cancellation

As far as I know, few have been able to find a way of talking about Tetris in relation to the world, other than that it's very fun and addictive and abstract, oh and there are blocks. Which fall.

Consider, though, the fact that blocks disappear when they're perfectly consolidated, and that at least two pieces are needed for this to happen. This does in fact recall something else, though it's a concept rather than a phenomenon: mathematical cancellation.

Cancellation is simply when you have the same element on each side of the equals sign. E.g., if a*b=b, then a=b/b, which means that a=1. Two elements match to cancel each other out, leaving you with nothing, or 1.

Of course, if they match imperfectly, you get a remainder. Just like in math. So, while the logistics of the gameplay may seem like an abstraction of packing stuff optimally into a strange well-shaped car trunk, the mental faculties required could be said to resemble that needed for mathematical proofs.

It's interesting in this context that Tetris variants where you have to match up correct equations tend to fall rather flat.