First appearance: Spacewar! (Steve Russell, PDP-1, 1962)
M.O.: The force that surrounds us, binds us, and make us fall into pits
Weaknesses: Glitches, cheats, and most top-down RPGs

Profile by Justin Fairchild | March 18, 2011

Whether your chosen videogame hero is rescuing fair maidens, singlehandedly vanquishing the forces of evil, or or awaiting redemption in the form of a long I-block, your worst enemy is often far too real.

You can overcome gravity, even bend it to your will, but its force is unstoppable. It’s the ball escaping your paddle, the centipede and spiders and bugs careening towards your ship, the plumber misjudging the distance between ledges, the weapon upgrade in plain sight but just out of reach. It defines your avatar’s abilities and shapes their fate in ways most videogame villains could only dream of.

The apple must fall from the tree, and all players subconsciously understand that learning a game’s gravity requires trial and error. This eager willingness to learn (or suffer) separates the hero from the has-been, gamers from non-gamers, NES masters from their home-computer bretheren. Only a handful of games relegate gravity to “minor villain” status—you can float aimlessly through Kirby’s Adventure, binge on leaves and P-Wings in Super Mario Bros. 3, occasionally abuse falling-piece rotation to hover in place, or embark upon a role-playing quest, where gravity’s influence is limited to age wrinkles earned while wasting your life farming Metal Slimes.

In light of gravity causing players no end of pain and suffering, games free of its grasp seem to jack up the cruelty to account for lost challenge. See: one-hit kills (Gradius), or arbitrary and oblique puzzles that impede progress (The Legend of Zelda’s Lost Woods).

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