Video Game Designers Need Math

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Is your child addicted to XBOX? Are they unable to tear their eyes away from their Playstation? Do you try and pull away their controller on a nightly basis? Well you should tell them to step away from the screen and do their math homework,
because computer games rely on math and computer game designers need to excel at the subject in order to produce the all consuming products that your child is no-doubt addicted to.

When you are watching a computer game you will see that math is everything. From the trajectory of an angry bird plummeting through the sky to a car crash on Grand Theft Auto, the way objects and characters move across the screen is grounded in one type of mathematics formula or another.

While computer game programmers definitely need math to make the game function, the designers – who are merely working on the visuals – really have to know their stuff.

So what are some of the math that video game designers need to know?

Here are just a few subjects that could be useful:

  • Algebra
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Trigonometry
  • Calculus
  • Linear Algebra
  • Applied mathematics

So where does all of that math come in? Well reader I have a confession to make – I don’t play videogames – so I am using examples provided by the contributors at Quora.

  • Ocean waves crashing nicely against your boat in ASC: Black Flag
  • Those bullets flying over your head in Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • That fancy UI animation that’s procedurally generated
  • Sonic being able to run fast and Mario being able to jump
  • Drifting around that corner in Need for Speed at 80mph
  • Snowboarding down a slope in SSX
  • That rocket blasting off in Kerbal Space Program.

Then there’s game theory, which takes into account how the game is played. This looks at the number of people playing, each player’s chance of winning and the way that strategy could alter the outcome.

And if your child does want to delve into some programming the stakes get even higher with trigonometry, physics and calculus all crucial to their success in the field.

So next time you find that you can’t get your child to look away from the screen ask them to pay attention to some of the actions involved in their game. It may help them with their geometry, trigonometry and understanding of statistics. Or your interest might in fact push them into doing their homework because that is the only way that they will get left alone.



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Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of two.  She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.