Physics and Computer Games

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Computer games have steadily become a form of mainstream entertainment ever since Pong was released back in 1958. Today, it is hard to find an electronics department in any store that doesn't carry some sort of computer game. "Big deal," you say, "Everyone knows about computer games. What does they have to do with physics?" Well, the technology for creating more powerful software is constantly advancing, and since games are a form of software, they too become more and more advanced. As games become more advanced, game developers aim to create games that offer a more realistic experience. The technology has advanced to such a stage that making the games look real is no problem, but making a truly immersive experience is something different. That's where physics comes in.

Well, to answer that, you have to have a basic understanding of physics. Physics is the study of matter and energy, and how the two interact with each other. Things such as gravity, sound and light - all involve physics. As you might have noticed, gravity, sound and light are things we encounter quite frequently in our day to day routines. Game developers, in their goal to create a believable, realistic world for the gamer to immerse themselves in, know that in order to do so their game needs to incorporate the laws of physics. After all, their games wouldn't be very realistic if players kept floating away every time they tried to make their character jump or dodge around.

Gravity is only a small part of the realism experience. Developers have to incorporate as many laws of physics as they can in order to make their game truly realistic. Collisions play a big part in any game - it wouldn't be very believeable to allow players to move through walls or objects. Some games take the collision and elasticity elements further, and create extremely elaborate physics engines that can handle, say, two cars colliding, and produce a believeable outcome to the collision. Games like F1 Championship Racing and GTA3 have excellent physics engines that feature some really impressive automobile simulations. Many old games simply use gravity and collision detection in their games, but more recent games involve much more complicated physics applications.

So How Do They Do It?

Game developers use physics engines to simulate the physics effects in their games. What's a physics engine? A physics engine is a specialized piece of software specifically designed to integrate the laws of physics into a game.
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