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About this blog

I'll be analyzing video games, trying to apply real-world physics to them, and seeing how accurate or inaccurate they are.

Note: May not always be video games

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This post will delve less into video games and more into science fiction. Holograms are often shown in sci-fi movies and tv to show futuristic technology. Holograms are usually depicted as images created purely by light. Currently, we have digital projectors, able to display a color image on a flat surface. However, most holograms in pop culture have a 3d image. This would be difficult to accomplish realistically, since in order to create a 3 dimensional image, the light would need something to refract off of. The same way that a laser pointer will show a line through smoke or fog, but only shows a dot through the air. Creating a 3d hologram would require that light be refracted in specific regions in order to create an image. Figuring out a way to do this for a moving image, especially at a high framerate, would be difficult. I hope that one day technology advances to a point where I can see this happen.


Usually, when someone asks what superpower you would want, some say invisibility. It may be possible in the future to achieve this, however. 

The idea behind cloaking, as many seem to point out in the comments of the video, is fairly simple: bending light around an object such that you are unable to see it. In my opinion, Team Fortress 2 does this very well. The Spy class has an invisibility watch that allows him to cloak himself for brief amounts of time. However, if the spy comes in contact with an enemy or takes damage, his cloak will "blink" and an outline of his body will become visible. This makes some sense, as the cloaking device in the video requires careful calibration of the lenses in order to cloak an object, bumping into the spy might mess up his cloaking and cause him to blink.


The wall jump is a common term for the ability of a video game character to kick off of a wall to gain a bit of height. This technique is most common to platforming games, but can have its place in other genres. Usually, the character will jump between two parallel walls, but it is possible in some games to do a wall jump at a 90 degree corner. The most interesting thing about this is that it is technically possible. The trick relies on applying force on the wall and using momentum in order to push yourself up. Video game wall jumps are a bit less demanding on momentum, but nearly always show the character pushing off against a wall. It's interesting to see something some consider only possible in games done similarly in real life!



Metroid is a game known for its power ups. One of the lesser known ones from Metroid 2 for the Gameboy was the Spider Ball. This allows Samus, when curled up into a ball using her morph ball ability, to stick to walls and ceilings. Assuming that SR-388, the planet Metroid 2 takes place on, has gravity identical to ours, this power up would allow Samus to hold herself to walls with a force of over 882 newtons considering that the manual for Super Metroid lists her weight as 90 kilograms without her Power Suit.


Mario Kart 8 introduced a "zero gravity" feature where, in certain parts of tracks could be driven on upside down and sideways. This addition to the series is interesting though, as it isn't explained how this would function. The carts levitate above the track while in "zero gravity" mode, yet don't fall away from the stage. Also, while in this mode, you still have the ability to accelerate and decelerate. This should be impossible without some kind of force coming from the cart. Sure, there are some kind of thrusters, but these only visibly activate after using a speed item. Additionally, tracks at an angle to the force of gravity would have carts moving towards the force of gravity.


The main bosses of the Mega Man series are known as "Robot Masters". Each one has a theme, and a level to go along with that theme. For example, Gravity Man from Mega Man 3. As his name suggests, this robot is themed after the idea of controlling gravity. However, this should not be physically possible. Gravity is the result of large masses, such as planets and moons. In the game, this robot's level consists of "gravity" fields where you can fall towards the ceiling instead of the floor. If this were truly gravity, the level would not be able to "switch" gravity in specific places. Realistically, this would probably be an extremely strong magnet, but then we'd have a second Magnet Man.


Stardew Valley is a peaceful farming game in the same vein as Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon. Unlike these games, Stardew Valley runs on its own calendar rather than using a real life equivalent.

Time in Stardew Valley is broken up into four seasons, with 28 days each. Each day has 24 hours, but a second in our time is equivalent to about a minute in Stardew Valley time. While this time difference is most likely for gameplay purposes, I'd like to discuss Stardew Valley as if the game took place on another planet.

A year, one full revolution around our sun, would take about 44.8 hours in our time. Due to the exactness of the seasons in the game, the orbit of the planet would have to be nearly circular.


PaVG #17: Ping

Most anyone who plays online games can tell you that ping, also known as latency, is one of the main factors to a smooth gameplay experience. Ping is the amount of time it takes for the input from your keyboard, mouse, or controller to reach the server running the game. This is usually measured in milliseconds, and the lower your ping is, the better. Good ping relies on a good connection to the server. This is dependant mainly on your internet connection and distance from the server. You'd get better ping connecting to a server close to you rather than one on the other side of the globe. Due to the limitations of physics, the speed of light in a vaccuum is 3x10^8 meters per second. This means that no matter what, ping will always be limited by distance. Even with the best fiber optic internet connection, you'd still see characters jittering around the screen if you connect across the globe.


RGB Lighting

One day, I was bored at my computer and decided to take a closer look at my mouse. This mouse has RGB lighting, meaning it can change between whatever color you could think of. However, the way these colors are produced has an interesting relation to physics. This mouse contains three separate LEDs. One controls the amount of red light produced, one for green, and one for blue, as indicated by the term RGB. Together, if each LED outputs light with a certain brightness, they can form other colors in between the standard red green and blue.

Back to the story, I picked up my mouse which had a yellow color at the time. I decided to shake it around a bit, and noticed that when I did, I could see red and green strips of light. This is explained by a property of light which shows that light of different colors travel at different speeds. For example, red light travels faster than blue light. Knowing how something works is one thing, but seeing firsthand how that effect is achieved is another.


Time travel is a common theme throughout games. Due to the laws of physics, however, time travel is only possible in a few theoretical situations. Time travel backwards through time seems even less likely from a physics standpoint. However, these limitations make for interesting gameplay mechanics. For example, in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, time travel is a major theme throughout the game. As the name implies, you play music through a flute-like instrument called an Ocarina to play different songs with special effects, including time travel.

During the game, after you've traveled into the future, you meet a man in a windmill playing a song. He's angry that, years ago, a boy with an ocarina came to the windmill and played that song, making the windmill spin out of control. This is the Song of Storms.

Travelling back in time, you can return to the windmill as a child. You meet the man, who has neither met you, nor knows the song. If you play the Song of Storms now, the windmill goes out of control, leading to the events that occurred in the future.

This creates a paradox. The man who taught you a song in the future learns that song from a younger version of you. Paradoxes like these only complicate the idea of time travel for physicists trying to determine if it would be physically possible or worthwhile to travel through time.


Super Mario Galaxy's hub world is known as the Comet Observatory. In its center is what a character describes as a "ball of flame" called the Beacon which powers the whole observatory. This beacon starts off small, but as the player collects Grand Stars, the beacon grows in size and changes color. This beacon changes color from burgundy, to orange, to yellow, green, greenish-blue, blue, and turquoise. I'm sure from this description your immediate thought is "star". However, if this beacon was really a star, the heat it would be releasing would be catastrophic for anyone nearby. Stars' gravitational pulls are powerful enough to control the movement of planets, let alone the effects it should have on Mario and the Observatory. Mario should be lucky he hasn't melted yet. Most 3d Mario games have been about collecting stars, but this is nowhere near the same thing.


PaVG #14: Overwatch

Overwatch is a recent first person shooter by Blizzard. The game has become very popular due to its roster of 23 heroes and counting. However, some of the characters can be a bit unrealistic. For example, the character Lúcio wields a gun that fires sound at his enemies. He also has an ability that can push away any hero, including the 7'3" 550 lbs tank known as Roadhog. This gun has enough force to push Roadhog into the air. I'll be calculating the absolute minimum amount of force this ability has. Converting Roadhog's 550 lbs to kg, we get about 249.476 kg. To find the net force it would take for Roadhog to overcome the force of gravity, I'll use F=ma to find the force with the acceleration due to gravity being 9.8 m/s2. Using this equation, the gun would have a force of at least 2444.8648 newtons. This kind of power is insane for such a small weapon, especially considering this is done purely through sound, and surely this technology would be deadly for both the user and the target.


The Magnet Gloves from The Legend of Zelda series only appear in two of the series' games. This item works by either attracting your character to, or repelling the character away from, certain objects stuck into the ground. The interesting thing about this is that the item can "switch polarity" by the press of a button. Theoretically, this could be possible using electromagnets. If the current were able to switch directions, then the magnet should switch its polarities. Although, don't ask me why a game set in a magical medieval style is using electromagnets.


Thinking back on it, Super Mario Sunshine is one of the only games I can think of that does waves accurately. Let me explain. There are ropes throughout the game connecting platforms that allow Mario to walk across them. Mario can jump off of these ropes in order to gain some height, but what I noticed was that the rope after Mario jumped acted somewhat realistically. The rope created a wave. The wave started with an amplitude of about how much the rope was displaced while Mario was standing on it due to his weight, and after Mario jumped, the rope slowly stabilized at its original position. This is one of the few instances I can think of where they got such a small detail right in an otherwise physics-breaking game.


PaVG #11: Ground Pound

The Ground Pound is a common mechanic in some video games, usually used as an attack that involves your character slamming into the ground. Usually, this attack is visibly more powerful than a character's usual fall would be. Most games don't count landing on the ground as any sort of attack, but a ground pound will definitely do some damage. The problem with this is that in order to "create" more force to slam into the ground with, you must either increase your mass or acceleration downwards. This seems completely unlikely as no character is ever handed a bowling ball at the peak of their jump to increase their mass, and I'm sure nobody's using a jetpack upside down to increase downward acceleration.


PaVG #10: Double Jump

Like Rocket Jumping, the Double Jump has become a staple feature for some platforming games. In order to perform this gravity defying action, a character would have to have the ability to, at any time, instantly create a force exactly equal to their current downward force due to gravity acting at their feet. Any greater, and they'd be floating upwards. Any less, and they'd be falling slowly. Creating this force acts as a normal force, like the force the earth enacts upon us as we just walk around. Theoretically, if someone were able to do this, they may be able to push enough to "jump" in the air again. Just remember, what goes up must come down.


Rocket Jumping has become a common occurrence in first person shooters. The idea is that detonating an explosive at your feet will allow your character to move much faster in exchange for damaging yourself. In Team Fortress 2, a cartoony class-based first person shooter by Valve, about 4 of the 9 classes have some way of "explosive" jumping, but today I'll be talking about the Rocket Launcher-wielding Soldier. One of the main characteristics of this class involves movement through the air using rocket jumping. The problem is the damage. I'm sure you realize that any sort of explosion could be fatal to a normal human being. However, in Team Fortress 2, a weapon exists that acts the same as a Rocket Launcher, but does no damage. This weapon is called the Rocket Jumper, for obvious reasons. Realistically, if an explosive had the force to knock you into the air, the force alone would be enough to kill you. Not to mention the other classes' forms of jumping, such as grenade launchers, flare guns, rocket-shooting sentry turrets, and defying gravity by jumping in the air up to 5 times.


The Death Star

A few days ago, I was speaking to a friend about the effect that building a real-life Death Star would have on the earth. Sure, we don't exactly have the engineering or astronomical knowledge to make that a reality, but it's interesting to think about the effects of such a massive change. If we assume that the Death Star has properties nearly identical to our own moon in terms of mass and radius, we would definitely expect a change in tides due to its gravitational pull on the earth. Also, if the Death Star were orbiting our earth as our moon does, we would either have twice as many eclipses due to the two "moons", or the two would end up crashing into each other. These are things to consider when working on such a massive scale. The bigger a change you make, the more it affects the smaller details.

Also, the government told us no.



Graphics Cards

While this topic isn't directly associated with video games, graphics cards do have some physics related to them. A gpu (graphics processing unit) is a component of a computer that, as you may guess, is what allows images to be displayed. A gpu can be integrated into the cpu (central processing unit), or as part of a graphics card, something that can be added into a desktop computer if the motherboard supports it. One company that designs gpus, NVIDIA, names most of their gpu microarchitectures after prominent scientists, mathematicians, and innovators. These include Tesla, Fermi, Kepler, Maxwell, and most recently, Pascal. All of these people had incredible impacts on the world of science and mathematics, providing theories and ideas we still use today.


PaVG #8: Mega Man

Most of us can understand that video games are not meant to be realistic. Some games, however, ignore certain aspects of physics. For example, the classic Mega Man franchise is about a future society that has widely accepted robots and artificial intelligence. The game is all about running, jumping, and shooting at robots to destroy them. However, two of these elements contradict each other in terms of physics. These two are jumping and shooting. In the game, Mega Man is clearly affected by gravity, as when he jumps, he reaches a peak and stops for a moment. However, most projectiles you can fire (aside from a few that simulate gravity) travel in the direction you fire with a constant speed and height. Logically, throwing a sawblade upright should end poorly (both in terms of safety, and replicating this attack).


Happy halloween! I decided to look at a spooky game today. In Luigi's Mansion, Luigi carries a vaccuum to capture ghosts. However, he can also use it to suck up gold bars. A gold bar weighs about 12.4 kilograms. If the vaccuum lifted the gold bars straight upward, the vaccuum would have to exert a force of suction greater than 121.644 newtons.


PaVG #6: Pong

Pong is a simple game that most can understand. It behaves similarly to a game of table tennis, and has had numerous iterations over the years. In its simplest form, the ball moves with constant velocity between two paddles until one misses it. In real life, the ball would have to exist on a frictionless surface and face purely elastic collisions with both paddles in order to retain a constant velocity without any forces acting on it. The closest we can come to this is air hockey, and even then the puck eventually slows down and does not retain velocity upon collision.


PaVG #5: Tetris

Tetris is a game about falling blocks. They fall at a constant velocity, or at a much faster rate. Realistically, gravity would cause the blocks to accelerate. Two options exist for Tetris to realistically exist, assuming the board is set up vertically. One, the game is set in space, and each block has a constant force acting towards the ground, or two, a force is acting against gravity such that there is no acceleration on the block. However, each round the blocks fall at a faster velocity, therefore we can determine that the force acting on the tetris pieces is changing.




PaVG #4: Portal

Today I want to talk about Portal's Long Fall Boots. In the game, these boots are a way around the concept of "fall damage". This is necessary due to the amount of falling done in the game, allowing you to reach terminal velocity when falling through two portals and launching yourself across a room. Realistically, the force of gravity would accelerating you to terminal velocity, and would crush your body. The Long Fall Boots completely negate this, allowing you to fall from impossible heights, decelerating you when you hit the ground leaving you completely safe. This is nearly impossible, but necessary for the game to maintain fun gameplay. Dying every time you fall wouldn't make for a fun game.



Welcome back! Today's just gonna be a simple discussion as to why the Mirror Shield from the Legend of Zelda games is inaccurate as to the way light works in real life.


This is the Mirror Shield as shown in the game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This shield has appeared in several other incarnations in the series, but most share one feature. They reflect light in order to solve puzzles. Now, although it has a highly polygonal model, you can clearly see that the "mirror" surface is convex. In the games, the player reflects a straight beam of light when standing under a light source. However, due to the convex nature of the mirror, the light should be dispersed. The only way a straight beam of light would be achieved would be with a flat surface. A convex mirror disperses light, whereas a concave one brings it to a point. Most of the shields in the series act the same way. They are convex, but direct light in a straight path.

That should conclude this post. Let me know your thoughts, and I'll talk to you next time!

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