IOP Institute of Physics

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How physics is driving the computer games industry

12 August 2011

The Institute has recently published 'How physics is driving the computer games industry', the first in a series of business briefs highlighting the importance of physics to businesses in the UK and Ireland.

The brief is part of the PhysicsWorks series, which will focus on the critical roles that physics and physics-trained people play in sectors of the economy such as entertainment, retail and services: areas that would perhaps not be traditionally regarded as ‘physics-based’, but within which advances are made possible through the application of physics.

The computer games industry is one of these sectors. The UK is a world leader in the development of computer games, generating over £2bn in annual sales. 

Multinational companies such as Sony choose to have a base here alongside the large number of smaller start-ups and SMEs which are breaking new ground in the sector. 

As the brief describes, physics-trained people are highly valued in these businesses and recent research has shown that of all graduates working in computer games, it is physics graduates that attract the highest salaries. 

The companies that contributed to the brief also point out that physics knowledge is central to computer games development: to keep up with consumer expectations, computer games must become increasingly ‘life-like’, not just in terms of how characters and scenery are drawn, but also in the way the characters move, and how they interact with their environment. 

The ‘physics engines’ within the games are what provide this realism, applying classical mechanics along with the maths that underpins relativity to ensure a bouncing ball appears on screen behaving exactly as it would in real life.

Physics is driving the computer games industry, and the Institute works closely with companies to ensure that this will continue.

The IOP will be producing more of these business briefs and for more information, or news on future forum meetings, contact


PhysicsWorks: How physics is driving the computer games industry

PhysicsWorks: How physics is driving the computer games industry

The computer games industry is a UK success story, and this success is underpinned by physics and physics-trained people