Physics of Time in Games

Physics of Time in Games

Last year, I gave an interview to the the XBoxBR youtube channel about the time travel in the game Quatum Break. You can watch the interview (in portuguese) bellow



Using time as one of the mechanics, or the main mechanic, in a game is nothing new. Braid and Max Payne series (and some others) used it before.


After the interview, I thought more about the game and the physics related to the game and I decided to expand the ideas in this post. First of all, the name of the game, Quantum Break, is a very good one, but, scientifically, is not the best choice. To be accurate the game should be named Relativity Break. I’m glad they’ve decided to call it Quantum Break, it sounds much better.

I said in the interview that one possible explanation, especially if you take into account the visual representation of the Time Control Mechanics (the video bellow shows most of them), that one could, in principle, create those effects with gravitational fields. For example, the Time Shield for bullets could be explained as a gravitational field that bends the space around the main character and deflects the bullets. The effect of freezing time can be explained by the same principle: the strongest the gravitational field a clock is immersed, the slower the time will affect someone inside that region.

But, there’s also another thing that could explain most of the time effects in the game: the speed the character has. In the Special Theory of Relativity, Einstein postulated that the speed of light must be constant to all observers of an event, regardless their state of movement relative to some referential. The faster one goes, the slower the time passes for he(she). This effect is only relevant for speeds close to the speed of light (99% of the speed of light, and it gets even stronger the closest one is of it). Probably, the most iconic (although, again, not scientifically accurate: the perception of time doesn’t change for one travelling close to the speed of light, what changes is the effect of time on he(she). But who cares; the point is to be fun and drammatically enjoyable) in the nerd culture is when Flash (The DC character) is experiencing the Speed Force, like in this episode (one of the best of the first season, even Luke Skywalker is on it).


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