The problem with these “physics of [video game]” articles


Super Mario Bros is a popular case study in discussions of physics and gravity. The acceleration of gravity in the Mario universe has been studied extensively in relation to fan theories in Youtube videos by Game Theory and PBS Spacetime, articles in Wired, Business Insider, and Techradar. It has even been frequently used to teach physics in actual classrooms, some of which has resulted in publications in education journals.

The results obtained by all these studies give us something that is hardly surprising. The gravitational acceleration in the Mario universe is not the same as in the real world, which should be 9.8 m/s^2. The obvious answer to this is that video games are not supposed to represent the real world. If we apply real-world laws of physics to a video game, it is inevitable we will get non-sensical results. So why do physicists keep trying to apply Newtonian mechanics to 2D platformers?

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