Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Making Physics Fun

I slept through physics in high school because it was sooo boring, and in college physics seemed very "plug and chug" - memorize a formula, apply it to a few textbook exercises and canned labs, then regurgitate it on the test. Obviously, Richard Feynman was not my instructor! I couldn't relate physics to real life, since I had developed a bias against the subject. Perhaps I would have been more engaged if I learned about physics through videogames.

The Wall Street Journal Online has a free article about how physics make videogames fun by making games seem real, but not too real, thus giving the player a plausible escape from reality. Basically, physics drives the gameplay, and not just for shooters - it is used in creating the look of flowing water, trees swaying in the breeze, and don't forget gravity! There is a reference to the blog Fun-Motion.com, which reviews and lists physics-focussed games. (One is Line Rider, referenced earlier this month in the EdGames blog.) There is also a startup that is developing a specialized physics processing unit (PPU) which promises to further enhance gameplay - read a preview of the PhysX PPU at PC Perspective.


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