Video Game Physics


What are video game vingettes? These video game 'vignettes' were created as an alternative assessment for instructors. Many times, homework assignments consist of having students solve problems at the end of every chapter. Though these problems help with problem solving skills, many times students develop heuristics simply to solve a problem without actually understanding the content.  Where these short video clips go above and beyond is that students need to dig deeper into what's happening in the video to find the actual data and determine what it is they need to solve the problem as opposed to a number simply given to them. They have the same practice with the equations but they also learn how to find the data, how to estimate, and develop skills with their assumptions. We use video games as the hook in their interest as they are common to all students.

Browse through different topics of the video game vignettes. Use the legend to find the vignette most appropriate for your course. Rosegrant's Virtual STEM Research Lab does not want your students to get copies of the answers on you! Please email Dr. David Rosengrant to obtain a solution guide.

Use this legend to search for vignettes appropriate for your course. The level next to each vignette denotes which course it may be used in.

Vignette difficulties can be subjective. If you feel it is ranked too high or low, feel free to let us know!

Level and Difficulty Expectations

1: Questions could be conceptual in nature without any equations. Basic mathematics (simple equations with one variable missing).

2: Mathematics may require multiple steps or multiple equations. There could also be multiple assumptions that students need to make within the problem.



Super Mario Cats Walking by the Wall 
Level: 1
Question: The cat ran off the wall, then walked back. How fast did he walk?

Minecraft Velocity 1
Level: 1
Question: What is the average velocity of the minecart for this trip?

Minecraft Displacement 1
Level: 1
Question: Starting from the bottom of the hill, what is the magnitude and the direction of the displacement of the character after she has climbed from the bottom of the hill to the top?

GT6 Acceleration
Level: 1
Question: What is the acceleration when the car is speeding up? What is the acceleration of the car as it comes to a stop?


Fallout FBD
Level: 1
Question:  Draw a free-body diagram for you and the gun. Imagine you are dragging it like a normal human with your arm at a 45-degree angle. How is the gun able to move?

Projectile Motion 

Fallout Fall versus Run
Level: 1
Question: Adrian both runs and steps off a ledge. In which case will she hit the ground first?

Maokai’s projectile
Level: 1
Question: How high does Maokai throw his saplings?


Circular Motion

Fallout Swing Set
Level: 1
Question: What is the value of g for this planet?

Simple Harmonic Motion
Level: 1
Question: Which of these motions is simple harmonic motion?

Super Mario Pendulum
Level: 2
How long is the pendulum? Be sure to describe any and all assumptions you make.

Akali’s Spins
Level: 1
Question: What is the centripetal acceleration of Akali’s knives when she spins around?


Fallout Gravitational Attraction
Level: 2
Question: What is the gravitational force between Adrian and Dogmeat (name for the German Shepard) at the 11 second mark in the video?


Minecraft Llama
Level: 1
Question: Draw a free-body diagram of the stoic llama.

Breath of the Wild Bow
Level: 1
Question: What is the size of the force that Link exerts to draw his bow?

Skyward Sword box with fricction
Level: 2
Question: What is the amount of kinetic friction that Link needs to overcome to get the box initially moving? Assume the box is made out of Cyprus Wood.

Newton's Laws

Fallout force pairs
Level: 1
Question: Identify the action/reaction pairs in each clip.

Pikmin Collisions
Level: 1
Question 1: When the Pikmin collides with the monster, which being experiences the greater force?
Question 2: When the Pikmin collides with the monster, which being experiences the greater acceleration?

Work and Energy

Minecraft Waterfall
Level: 1
Question: 505 kg of water are flowing out of this waterfall. What is the increase in internal energy of the water at the bottom of the falls?

Floating Person
Level: 1
Question: What is the floating man’s potential energy?



Temperature Scales

Minecraft Temperature Conversion
Level: 1
Question: Watch the following Minecraft clip. In the first biome, it is 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Convert this temperature to Celsius and Kelvin. In the second biome, it is 37 degrees Celsius. Convert this temperature to Fahrenheit and Kelvin.

Fluids and Gases

Legend of Zelda and waves
Question: The bombs are bobbing up and down in the waves, but aren’t being pushed by them. Why is this so?


Modern and Nuclear


Breath of the Wild Teleportation
Level: 1
Question: How Much Energy is Link turned into when he teleports?

Quantitative Problem: What amount of energy is required to convert Tibbers from his Teddy Bear form into bear form?
Level: 1