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The Earth has gone through at least four major ice ages in its past. The first is hypothesized to have been around 2.7 to 2.3 billion years ago, but who can really remember? The earliest well-documented ice age occurred between 850 and 630 million years ago and may have covered the entire surface of our planet with a permanent ice. Scientists call this state a Snowball Earth, disregarding that nobody exists who’d be large enough to toss such a ball of snow. There was a smaller ice age between 460 and 430 million years ago, one more 350 to 260 million years ago and we’re actually still in one that started 2.68 million years ago, though it just peaked about 20,000 years ago. Ice age is also a game.
Above: That was your first fact: Ice age is a game. We could go on
World 6 in Mario Bros. 3, Blizzard Man and Ice Man from the Mega Man series and that one planet in Mass Effect: frozen worlds aren’t just for movie-based spinoff games. We wanted to figure out why this motif keeps repeating itself, so we started coming up with some ideas: is it the safety of a proven level design? Do consumers respond well to level-types that appeared in Mario Bros games? Is it just an unwillingness or resistance to thinking outside of the box?
It turns out that none of those are even close to true. Any level’s theme is dependent on its temperature.
So what makes some levels cold and others not? Atmospheric composition, mostly, and particularly the concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane gas can have a drastic effect on the temperature of the entire level. Also, the orbit around the sun can affect global temperature, and the movement of tectonic plates changes the location and amount of the continental and oceanic crust of the planet, which – you know – can make things hot or cold.
Above: Science shows us two typical inhabitants of two planets in separate orbits
Once an ordinary game level reaches the appropriate temperature, which is 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water freezes and it becomes known as the ice level. Or to say it simply, things go from this:
Above: Serious running faces
Above: We don’t even need to put on warmer clothes
It’s obvious that Sonic and Mario are having a better time in the second screen, but what caused this change to happen? Well, we know that when the temperature drops the ice world is created, but does the temperature alone cause more happiness and fun in Mario and Sonic franchise collaborations? Let’s take a look at an estimate of how the addition of trillions of tons of frozen water might affect our planet.
Freezing the Earth certainly turns the chart bluer. But for those who are also concerned with the data, the levels of rocks trees and dirt are way down – sealed under glaciers and tons of snow. Ice is on the rise and obviously that translates into some fun game worlds. Need proof to back that up? Take a look at this chart of how much fun people, Mario and penguins usually have while living on different surfaces: