Where Civil Engineering and Video Games Meet

The days of sixteen-bit video gaming with pixel-sharp characters dashing across the screen has long since passed into history. Today, video games rely on entire teams that utilize cutting edge physics engines and engineering protocols in order to develop and test a high-budget game. The major gaming studios that put hundreds of millions of dollars into games rely on advice from civil engineers in order to make their games a reality.

Diablo III

One of the newest breakthroughs in action roleplaying games are interactive environments. Whether you are a space marine or a wizard, games now allow you to break down barriers, walls, and ceilings in order to harm your opponents or get through to secret areas. The triple-A title Diablo III released by Activision Blizzard is one such action game that required consultation by civil engineers in order to develop the mechanics needed. Blizzard’s in-game design needed to be able to connect walls collapsing with the mathematics of damage to create a realistic sense of an interactive world. Players in the game are able to bring entire buildings tumbling down in order to combat zombies, skeletons, demons, and ghosts who roam the dungeons and castles of the fantasy world.

Spec Ops: The Line

Some of the bestselling video games on the market today have more disc space allocated for in-game videos than active mechanics. As video games become longer and are capable of more complex plots, the cinematic approach the quality of Hollywood blockbusters. For games in which destruction of entire towns is quite prevalent, designers consult with engineers to ensure that not only are the buildings and bridges constructed correctly, but that a major explosion brings it down accurately. The recently released game Spec Ops: The Line takes place in the hyper-modern city of Dubai within the United Arab Emirates. Civic engineers were consulted in order to determine the correct placement and digital design of buildings that would be used as plot devices, requiring players to enter, escape, or destroy landmarks to progress. Parts of the game where entire skyscrapers are brought down required expert analysis and input.

Rollercoaster Tycoon

It is not difficult to find a game that requires little cognitive capacity to play and beat, but for every mindless game released it is possible to find educational or instructional games that provide realistic insight into every-day operations. Some of these games take on a business tack, requiring players to not only raise buildings and constructions but also to profit from them. The hugely popular Rollercoaster Tycoon business simulation game allows players to create their own amusement park and let the public run wild on the rides. Taking a park that stretches over a dozen square miles and putting it into a computer screen is no small feat. Design and engineering teams helped make the Rollercoaster Tycoon’s index of coasters, tilt-a-whirls, and log rides run with realistic speeds and take up realistic amounts of energy.

Total War

Building an entire city is a common motif of video games. With today’s computing power, however, it is now possible to build entire empires. Strategy games like the Total War series require you to scale entire cities with your army to take over massive swaths of territory. The upcoming Total War: Rome series sequel has re-constructed ancient empires like Carthage, Parthia, Iberia, and Gaul for players to combat and conquer. Civil engineers helped game programmers design the cities that had massive harbors, aqueducts, market squares, citadels, and even pyramids. Since players can zoom in close enough to see the individual details of character’s faces or the bricks in a building, the game offers unparalleled realism built upon the realistic design of an entire city.

Author Bio: William Stevens is a writer who produces articles related to engineering. This article was written to explain the relation between video games and engineering and to encourage further study in this field with a Masters in Civil Engineering.