How A Mario Speedrun Got Ruined By (Actual) Cosmic Rays
Did you ever lose at a video game? Did you then go on to get extra-humiliated by the victorious 11-year-old troll as he believably pointed your failure as the reason your mother had sex with him? Well, you can now (mostly) stop feeling bad about that, as scientists have finally proven that some of our biggest video game-related failures might have been caused by goddamned cosmic rays. (Damn you, Reed Richards; Dr. Doom was right about you.)
We've talked about how a big part of pro-gaming, be that competitive multiplayer or speedrunning, requires learning everything about the games you're playing and about the hardware you're playing them on. But, up until recently, they've been neglecting learning about straight-up actual college-level physics, and that could be hindering their progress. That's because speedrunners reach such levels of precision that things as supposedly irrelevant to the task, like radiation exposure from space, can change everything.
It started back in 2013 when Mario 64 speedrunner DOTAteabag's Mario teleported to an upper platform out of nowhere – a behavior never seen before. The move baffled many who tried to reproduce it, to the point of someone putting a $1,000 bounty for anyone able to reproduce it. Nobody did. That's especially puzzling since speedrunners are the world's most knowledgeable bunch when it comes to breaking games.
This wouldn't stop DOTAteabag's quest for an explanation, and six years later, he returned … seemingly with his sanity bar depleted, claiming that cosmic rays had caused the glitch.
But he was actually right.
In practice, the glitch was caused by something as simple as a 1 flipping to a 0 inside the game's code without the player's input. This changed Mario's position, but to explain why it happened, DOTAteabag found Intel's documentation of a similar glitch in their old hardware that happened when an accumulation of electrons in the semiconductor well caused the flip. Intel ran subsequent tests which proved the theory. Though still rare, the likelihood of this taking place in the future is only going to get higher, as the constant size reduction of hardware components only contributes to the chances of further bit flips:
Turns out cosmic rays can even cause a plane to take a nosedive, but let's ignore that and focus on what really matters: research also concluded there's no amount of radiation exposure that justifies casting Chris Pratt to play Mario.
Top Image: Nintendo