Hello, Lusireadorians! I write today about two qualities that are well understood by physicists, but not often well understood by gamers and game developers. One thing about objects that many people forget while playing a video game is that objects in the real world are substantial. They have a size, so there is a limited amount of space in which objects can fit, and they have weight, a product of their mass, the (inverse) radial distance between their center of gravity and that of the earth (squared), the mass of the earth, and Newton’s Gravitational Constant. This means that objects create a force toward the surface of the earth that often makes them difficult for people to carry. (You are welcome for the physics lesson, readers.)
Often, game developers will ignore these qualities of objects. They do not want that level of complexity in their games, and sometimes, it is justified anyway. Some video game characters, such as Mario or Sonic, will never carry enough items to break their own backs, though people may argue that point when it comes to coins and rings. Sometimes, the lack of a weight and size system in games is almost enough to break my suspension of disbelief. In the older Legend of Zelda games, for instance, Link’s arsenal would grow quite large. He would carry a hammer, a shield, a bag of many bombs, a wallet, many wands or rods, a musical instrument or two, a boomerang, a bow and several kinds of arrows, a sword, sometimes a second, larger sword, and a shovel, just to name a few. The player is supposed to believe that Link, a man who only just learned how to use a sword in most cases, can fit all of those items on his person or in a little pack on his back, and can also carry all of those items while combating monsters. Link’s bomb bag alone is illogical, fitting up to 50 very large bombs at times. Even in games that developers claim to be more realistic, such as those in the Call of Duty series, do not measure item capacity in weight and size, but instead by numbers that seem arbitrary to the average gamer. A player can only hold a certain number of bullets for a gun’s clip, along with a certain number of grenades. How much space do those grenades take up? How much do they weigh? Where are they kept? These are all questions that game developers are counting on gamers not to ask (because most reasonable people will not ask them).
Some game developers attempt to take weight into consideration. Take Skyrim, for example. Skyrim gives the player a carrying capacity, and when the player exceeds that capacity, their character is slowed and unable to sprint. The player is given magical means by which they can expand their capacity, which makes perfect sense in a world of magic. However, there is no absolute maximum carrying capacity. The player can carry as much as they want as long as they are willing to accept that their character will move more slowly. There is no amount of equipment that can be piled onto a character that will cause them serious injury or render them immobile. The character’s pack also seems to be bottomless. Though there is a carrying capacity in terms of weight in Skyrim, there is no size restriction. No matter how many items a player wishes to carry, nor how large those items are, the player can rest assured that those items can be easily shoved into their pack without tearing the pack or damaging other items in the pack. Got a gold harp from a dragon’s lair? Just shove that thing right into the pack next to the priceless antique vase! The items will be perfectly safe, and there is no danger of the pack splitting open.
In real life, bags are not magic. They can be stuffed too full and become unable to be zipped up or closed, or can even burst a seam, spilling their (possibly valuable) contents all over the place. Items can be heavy. Sometimes, items are so heavy that people cannot even lift them, let alone carry the items with them to their destination. And unlike Skyrim, where all of one’s carrying capacity issues can be solved by simply jumping onto the back of a horse, if a person jumps onto a horse’s back carrying a thousand pounds of gold, that horse is going to suffer a serious spine injury, and both of them are likely to die. Should all games have carrying capacities for players to worry about? I would say no. However, I would say that if a game developer is going to figure carrying capacities into their game, they should go for broke. There should be a maximum weight limit, beyond which a character cannot pick up any more items, and there should be realistic size limitations when it comes to items in packs. I would like my realism real, please.