Two Games That Mess With Relativity

When you start to learn about Special (or General) Relativity, one of the first question you’re almost guaranteed to ask is, “Why do things get so weird when you approach the speed of light?” My favourite answer to this question is to say that if we lived our lives at relativistic speeds, our current low-speed, “normal” world would seem just as bizarre.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have access to the kinds of energies required to experience relativistic effects first-hand. Luckily, modern technology has provided us two glimpses into the kinds of mind-bending phenomena described by Albert Einstein.

First off, there’s the 3D, MIT-created, graphically beautiful game called A Slower Speed of Light. This first-person non-shooter, developed at MIT’s Game Lab, is free to download, so go try it out now. The goal of the game is to navigate a 3D world and collect spheres, which incrementally reduce the speed of ligh, amplifying effects like time dilation, Lorentz contraction, and the Doppler shift. Or in lay terms, stuff just keeps getting crazier.

A Slower Speed of Light
I'm sure the giant mushrooms aren't meant to imply anything at all.

Next up: Velocity Raptor. This game is much more serious in the area of having puns in the title, but it otherwise differs greatly from the MIT effort. For example, instead of being first-person and 3D, this one involves a cape-wearing velociraptor sliding around an icy, 2D laboratory with inexplicably fatal puddles on the floor, trying to catch the evil Prof Rex, who slows down the speed of light by… pulling a giant lever.

velocity raptor
How did Prof Rex even build that thing without opposable thumbs?

All that aside though, the game does an interesting job of showing how time and space are affected by changing speeds. And it also provides a valuable lesson about the dangers of awarding doctorates to ferocious creatures from the Cretaceous period.