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You Won't Believe the One Game that AI Can't Figure Out

Researchers have now dubbed trading card game Magic: The Gathering the single most complex game in the world—and too complicated for computers to master.

Computer scientists have long been using algorithms to determine the complexity of different games. For many games, computers can effectively determine all the possible moves a player could make. You're probably aware of Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer who defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov back in 1996.

And, up until recently, computer scientists believed all games that people play could be cracked by some algorithm or another. But, as it turns out, you just can't crack a game of Magic: The Gathering.

"This is the first result showing that there exists a real-world game for which determining the winning strategy is non-computable," wrote a team of researchers working on determining the complexity of Magic.

Magic: The Gathering was the game that kickstarted the whole trend of trading-card games back in the early 90s. And it remains popular among a loyal following of players. But that doesn't mean the game is necessarily easy to get into. Featuring over 20,000 cards, with hundreds of new ones introduced each year, deciding how exactly to play the game can be intimidating.

The game is so complex and offers so many possible move options to players that the game literately breaks the understood rules of games as understood by scientists.

"Magic: The Gathering does not fit assumptions commonly made by computer scientists while modelling games," say the researchers.

So while computer algorithms and AI can now beat you at chess - and write music - they still can't determine the outcome of a game of Magic.

So when our computer overlords threaten to take over, our best bet might be to challenge them to a winner-takes-all game of Magic: The Gathering.


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