Luke Janbroers – Science Week winning non fiction writing competition

Below is Luke Janbroer’s entry in the Science Week non-fiction writing competition.

UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing

It’s hard to believe that 63 years have passed since the 1st video game was produced. October 1958, Physicist William Higinbotham created a tennis like game involving 2 rectangles and a square, similar to the game pong. Having worked on displays for radar systems and many other electronic devices, Higinbotham had no trouble designing the simple game display. It took Higinbotham only a couple of hours to conceive the idea of a tennis game, and only a few days to put together the basic pieces. Technician Robert Dvorak spent about two weeks building the device. After a little debugging, the first video game was ready for its debut. They called the game Tennis for Two. The cathode ray tube display simply showed a side view of a tennis court represented by just two lines, one representing the ground and a one representing the net. The game circuitry was fairly simple, using mostly resistors, capacitors and relays, though it did use transistors for the fast switching needed when the ball was in play. 

A video game or computer game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device, such as a joystick, controller, keyboard, or motion sensing device to generate visual feedback. This feedback is shown on a video display device. There are many mathematical principles behind the creation of computer games including: geometry, vectors, transformations, matrices and physics. Many games nowadays take place in a 3D virtual world. Objects and characters are created from a set of 3D points. These objects are manipulated (moved, rotated, scaled) to their desired shape and orientation then positioned in the world by a ‘change of coordinates’ to the world coordinate system”. Not only is there mathematics behind the creation of the games but also for playing them. FIFA players need to think strategically to work out the best way to tackle other players to get ball possession and the best angle for scoring goals, Battlefield players need to account for bullet drop, while Rainbow Six Siege shows the importance of controlling recoil (momentum and acceleration). 

The main basis for the development of a computer game is programming and design.  Knowledge in diverse scientific fields is needed to create it, e.g. Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology. Physics is everywhere in video games, similar to mathematics. For example, Battlefield bullet drop. Maths is the angle and speed while science is the umbrella term. Psychology is immensely important too. A video game must be immersive, it must engage the player. A popular example of this is Batman; Arkham city. At the time, that game hugely surpassed every other game on air. It gave us something others don’t, an open world, DC MMORPG with realistic fighting physics. The game is presented from the third-person perspective with a primary focus on Batman’s combat and stealth abilities, detective skills, and gadgets that can be used in both combat and exploration. Batman can freely move around the Arkham City prison, interacting with characters and undertaking missions, and unlocking new areas by progressing through the main story or obtaining new equipment.  It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and the second installment in the Batman: Arkham series. It’s suggested that Batman: Arkham Asylum was only created as a “test” to determine which aspects could be improved. Of course this idea was neither confirmed nor denied considering the uproar it would get. Psychology is a major aspect within video games. It’s an addiction. All creators have to do is tap into that want. 

A game engineer is a software developer that produces video games. As a game engineer, the duties may be in any phase of the game design process. They typically work by carrying out the visual and functional aspects of the video game. Their responsibilities include ensuring that the visual elements of the game are properly designed and can work on various pieces of hardware.Hardware design engineers design and develop components such as circuit boards and processors for computers and other devices. They work closely with software engineers to create new components, conduct tests on prototypes, and oversee the manufacturing process of a variety of hardware components, Troubleshooting and diagnosing errors and suggesting suitable repairs or modifications, Implementing maintenance, repairs, and modifications to existing components. There are 12 types of game engineers. Lead Designers, Level Designers, Content Designers, Game Writers, System Designers, Technical Designers, UI Designers / Usability Experts, Senior Designers, Junior Designers, Game Designers, Design Director / Creative Director, Game Designer as Teacher / Researcher. Each engineer is vital to game development. They’re what creates the game, the building blocks.

On top of this, Good-quality video games offer lots of benefits to children and teens. They can:

  • provide a fun and social form of entertainment
  • encourage teamwork and cooperation when played with others
  • make kids feel comfortable with technology—particularly important for girls, who don’t use technology as much as boys
  • increase children’s self-confidence and self-esteem as they master games
  • provide points of common interest and opportunities for socialization
  • develop skills in reading, math, technology and problem-solving
  • encourage participation in related offline activities, such as reading or sports
  • encourage civic participation
  • improve hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills

 

Overall, the STEM behind something that’s part of my everyday life (video games), is without a doubt an important aspect of society. Not only does it advance our technology, but it also a false sense of achievement which produces dopamine which evidently improves our mental health.

Posted

03rd Dec 2021

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