Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Battle Room 100: An in-depth look into the Zero G game from Ender’s Game

Hello. This is a Korean in America. If you have read my review of the movie “Ender’s Game”, you would know my thoughts about the movie. It sucks! It is so bad that I had a difficult time not leaving the theater. However, as a not so professional critic, I stayed until the end of the movie. One of the key things that I thought the movie criminally glossed over was the Battle Room stories. For the following articles, I will examine the Battle Room in detail.

Introduction to Battle Room 100
While the movie only spends about the 15 minutes on the Battle Room and Zero G combat games, it is really the heart of the story and takes up more than 40% of the novel. The movie treats the battle room as a fancy paint ball game that kids play for fun. It is essentially equivalent to the “Quidditch games” in the Harry Potter series. However, the degree of importance is different between the two.


In the Harry Potter series, “Quidditch” is just a game played in the school that does not specialize in creating “Quidditch” players. In the novel, Ender’s Game, what happens in the battle room is the point of the school. It is not a game but a space ship combat simulation even though it is presented as “Space” infantry combat to the students and the readers. Everything in the battle room is essentially preparation for later parts of the novel when Ender is dealing with space ships. This should be evident from the fact that the Battle school’s mandate is to create Space ship flag officers.

No one from battle school sinks so low to enter the Marines or infantry even if they are Space-y.


The darkness of the Battle Room and space
THE famous quote from the book which was put on the poster of the terrible movie was

“The enemy’s gate is down”

This quote is about resetting one’s Z-axis in Zero G. Ender recognized that the cadets had a tendency to use the station’s artificial gravity as a reference point in the battle room where it is no longer useful since there is no gravity. This means that one has to constantly reference how the station’s artificial gravity was oriented purely via memory.
Not only is this difficult in general, doing it during combat is extremely problematic as it constrains maneuverability. You keep using your brain’s computation resources in trying to identify one’s Z axis.

2D Spatial awareness
The common description of two dimensional spatial awareness, is thinking in terms of only X and Y axises. The positive X-axis is usually one’s front direction. In other words, it is the direction indicated by one’s visual sense. Identifying it requires a minimum amount of your brain’s computation resources.


The positive Y-axis requires additional computation resources since it uses one’s positive X-axis is as a reference point. It is the direction where your vision barely reaches while not being your back. Even after that is processed, you have to decide which side is your positive Y-axis since you have two options. This is usually determined via which hand is dominant. Since the majority of the population is right hand dominant, the right side becomes the positive Y-axis.


Learning to set your Z axis.
The underlining fact of two dimensional spatial awareness is that the Z-axis is a fixed direction rather than a relative direction like the others. This is because the negative Z-axis is determined by direction of gravity which is the center of the earth. If you are on the surface of the earth, the negative Z-axis is a fixed direction of your legs while standing. So, identifying it requires the least amount of computation resources. It helps also that you commonly don’t use the Z-axis much in daily life if you’re lucky.


This is quite convenient since the other two directions use the Z axis as a reference point. The X and Y axises are determined in relation to the fixed Z-axis.

In Zero G, there is no gravity. This means two things. First, you have an additional axis that requires as much or even more computational resource as the identifying one’s Y axis.  Second, you no longer have a fixed direction to use as a reference point. You only have 3 relative directions and more computational resource requirements than most can handle.

Why Down?
In the battle room, there is only two fixed points recognizable in the darkness. Those are both teams’ gates. Thus, using the enemy’s gate as a reference is obvious according to the objective focused military mindset.

However, have you wondered why it is down and not, let’s say, front or up?

This is where things get more complicated.

You have 3 relative directions in Zero G. Among them, the positive X- axis is the easiest to set since it is the direction indicated by one’s visual sense. In other words, it is the direction of your eyes. However, there is another factor that needs to be considered. It is the direction of motion in the battle room.


Motion, at least controlled motion, in the battle room is generated via the thrust generated by either arms or legs pushing off the walls. Uncontrolled motion generating by crashing off walls are a different story. So, the direction of motion tends to be along the vertical line of the body depending on which body part does the pushing off.

If you have the enemy’s gate as a reference point for the positive X- axis, front, this means that this direction of motion is added as a separate factor to compute. It requires translating the X- axis information into direction of motion information and thus increases the computational resource requirements.

On the other hand, when you equate your Z-axis with the direction of motion, you have less to consider. The enemy’s gate is down” basically means that the enemy’s gate is the direction of motion. The down part means the direction of your feet. However, why down and not up?

There are few reasons for this. First, we, as humans, are more used to looking down to our feet than up. Seeing superheroes flying around looking at the direction of flight, have you never felt like it looks weird?   Second, as the command center, you should not expose your head towards the enemy. In the Battle room, partially frozen legs are actually a good thing seeing for Ender use of it as a shield. Third, you have a better firing arc when your eyes are behind the aiming arms than when your eyes are is front.


A human body as a Spaceship.
So, what does this image of a cadet flying in dark space conjure up? You have a long rectangular body aimed at the target with the head at the back looking forwards aiming the firing arm in front of it.  It is basically the shape of what we would consider a traditional Spaceship design inspired by conventional battleship designs.


Conclusion
What Ender recognized, while not really stating it out laud, was that the cadets in the battle room were placeholders for spaceships. However, the other cadets were viewing it according to an infantry perspective. So, Ender exploited this weakness which was one of the points of the Battle room.

To create Space ship flag officers.


This is why Ender is a genius! The movie does not show you anything of this. It is not a place to make friends or find love.


Thanks you for reading this article. I will go over the individual battles in the following articles starting with Battle Room 101.


Proofed

Ender’s Game Review: Why does the movie make the Halo Direct to DVD movie feel like a masterpiece of acting?

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