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Science Explains Why Video Games Scroll Left To Right

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Most video gamers cut their teeth on arcade games and Nintendo. And all of those side-scrolling games moved from left to right, rather than from right to left. But did you ever wonder why?

Well, now you're in luck, because science has an explanation as to why games, such as Super Mario and MegaMan, are made to scroll left to right and it's simple: that's just what makes most sense to our brains.

Psychologist Dr. Peter Walker of Lancaster University did a study that showed a bias for left to right when it comes to visual motion.

This explains why characters in video games, including Super Mario, run from left to right.

In his study, Dr. Walker looked at thousands of Google images, videos and fonts.

Basically, he learned that our brains correlate speed and movement with leaning forward.

"What artistic conventions are used to convey the motion of animate and inanimate items in still images, such as drawings and photographs?" asks Dr. Walker. "One graphic convention involves depicting items leaning forward into their movement, with greater leaning conveying greater speed. Another convention, revealed in the present study, involves depicting items moving from left to right."

However, the brain's bias tends to only occur when something is moving, such as in a video game or video.

"Whereas a rightward bias is found for photographs of animate and inanimate items in motion (more so the faster is the motion being conveyed), either no bias or a leftward bias is found for the same items in static pose," says Dr. Walker. "This could indicate a fundamental left-to-right bias for visual motion."

However, this bias also presents itself when italicized fonts are used, suggesting speed and movement.

So Mario moves from left to right because that's how our brain perceives movement. Subconsciously, that's what looks right to us, and apparently, to video game developers. Although games of the '80s most always stuck to this bias, it's still popular in modern side-scrolling video games.

So the answer as to why games move left to right is simple, and yet the result has withstood the test of time.

Thanks, Super Mario!

Photo Credit: Nintendo

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