Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why Biology Will Make You Better at Video Games

One of my friends asked a while ago why I don't write about more science here, after all, the name will suggest that this is a science blog. And she's right. This entry will be primarily for nerds- sorry, Anna.

Pokemon is the obvious place to start- yes, yes, we get it: Heracross looks like a stag beatle, Butterfree is a butterfly, the bird-type pokemon are birds. But the game designers have a few more insidious examples then these, which are worth pointing out.

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On the left, the large flower cheerfully molesting these nice tourists is Rafflesia arnoldii. On the right is Vileplume. Unlike all those damn Oddish, Rafflesia is difficult to find and even more so when in bloom, which it only is for a few days every year. It has no leaves and no chlorophyll, parasiting the vine of a certain tree. Rafflesia is famous for smelling like a dead body when in bloom, which will cause flies to come and pollinate the giant, ugly flower.

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Chinchou's bioluminescence is, of course, inspired by the wide variety of deep-sea creatures that light up. But its shape bears some resemblance to two far more common marine creatures, the copepod and some kinds of dinoflagellates.Also, this ctenophore (more on them later) bears a certain resemblance:


...But it wasn't actually discovered until 2005, 6 years after the second generation of Pokemon came out. Life imitates Pokemon, anybody?

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Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker fans will recognize Gohma, the giant worm living in Dragon Roost Cavern. Well, Gohma, meet Eunices aphroditois, also known as the Bobbit worm, one of the largest polychaete (segmented ocean-living) worms ever at recorded lengths of 9.8 feet. Eunices will burrow itself into sand, and launch itself out at anything brushes by its tentacles. Wikipedia puts it best: "Armed with sharp teeth, it is known to attack with such speeds that its prey is sometimes sliced in half."
Eeeek. I guess Gohma isn't that scary after all.

(Note: when I initially thought of the connection, it was between Eunices and Volvagia, the 'subterranean lava dragon' of the Fire Temple, who more accurately represents the species as he will leave his hole occasionally to chase the player. Gohma, however, clearly bears the resemblance, and then I realized that LoZ has a love affair with giant burrowing worms: Volvagia, Twinmold from Majora's Mask, Gohma, and Morpheel from Twilight Princess, among others.)


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Not an animal comparison, but you'll remember the Zoras from Ocarina of Time. My brother speculated that the reason they didn't appear in Ocarina's successor, Windwaker, wasn't because they were killed, but because they're freshwater beings and couldn't adapt to a salty ocean. At first I agreed, but then realized that the Zoras in Majora's Mask lived in the Great Bay, which was clearly marine.

(Then again, Majora took place in an alternate universe. Make your own call.)

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Lastly, Halo. I went looking for some pictures of aliens and found this.


How the hell does it move? Does it push itself?

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Note: I thank the insidious bogleech for inspiring this post- I think I only directly stole an example from him once, but he still deserves many props. If this sort of thing interests you, you should read his articles.