Justin C. Williams Laser Enthusiast Looks at How Physics is Used in Online Video Gaming

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There are many computer games online today which teach a skill.  On the other hand, some online games teach subconsciously, or without the gamer’s conscious awareness.  One of those subjects is physics. In this article, Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast looks at how video games use physics in online gaming.

In reviewing many of the brain-enhancing online games, Justin C. Williams says, we see quite a few video games that improve cognitive function, such as better hand-eye coordination or improved memory and attention.  Some video games teach subjects like science, health and life skills, math, English and even ethics. But were you aware that video games can also help teach physics?

What is physics exactly?  Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast explains that physics is the branch of science that is concerned with nature, the properties of matter and energy in space and time, and the interaction between them.  A knowledge of physics enables us to have a basic understanding of the world around us, helping us to learn how things work and allows programmers to continue to develop increasingly complex solutions to difficult problems. 

So how do video games teach physics?  Rather than presenting an instructor behind a blackboard or an online professor, video games tend to use a more subtle approach.  Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast explains that even though teaching is not the primary purpose of most online games, learning, nevertheless, can occur when the games are played.

A good example of an online game where learning occurs is a game that features action and adventure.  These games use 3-D and other special effects to simulate real-life scenarios such as fighting jets, boxing, playing sports, or racing.  For example, if your game character jumps up, you’d expect it to come back down. That’s probably the most basic example, Justin C. Williams explains.  Another example would be hitting a baseball inside a game. If the ball didn’t act like a ball would in real life, the game would be very difficult to play and probably not very enjoyable, eventually resulting in fewer players using it.

Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast goes on to explain that there are 2 basic types of physics used to program today’s video games.  The first is considered “hard body” physics and relates to items within the game that are considered solid, such as a rock or a building.  These are easy to manipulate, he says. The second type is considered “soft body” physics which includes flexible items that move about, such as hair, clothing, and vegetation.  Because online games need to simulate real life as much as possible, game programmers try to duplicate exactly how the soft or fixed object will react with any scenario. Some of the factors considered would be things like trajectory, velocity, and other real-life features so that the player will be able to control the object as if it were real.  Justin Williams goes on to say this makes the game more enjoyable to the gamer.

He is quick to add, however, that this rule doesn’t have to be followed strictly for the game to be fun. Some online games deliberately skew the physics to make the game more exciting for the player.  A good example of this would be Grand Theft Auto in which the vehicle suffers an extreme crash for even the slightest collision with another vehicle. While that’s not even remotely true to life, in this case, the gamer has come to accept the discrepancy and adjusts their play accordingly.

In summary, Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast notes it is ultimately the programmer who performs the balancing act between the complexity of the physics involved and the ability of the computer to process it all.  He says with a smile, we’ve just begun to see the capabilities of what is out there, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.”