The commentary by Clive Thompson about a new video game “Pure” brings up a good point; game designers mess with gravity and the laws of physics all the time. In Pure, for example, the farther along in the game you go, the less bound by gravity you and your ATV actually are, so that you can perform Earthly impossible stunts and catch some major air, dude.
Today, now that video games are essentially ubiquitous and 97% of American youth consistently play video games, the physics of a video game is important. The physics of a game and the ability for your character to jump and fall and climb is what makes a game believable and “fair.” In computer-created worlds where critters can fly, ATVs can get higher than oxygen, and soldiers can shoot bad guys with a rifle from a mile away with a strong crosswind, is understanding physics important? It has to be to the video game creators, but is it to the players? Fans of Prince of Persia and other character-driven games where a character must travel around the game’s world get ticked off if the physics of the game are inconsistent: “why can’t they jump here but not there?” Of course veteran players are used to these inconsistencies from the early days of Mario Bros. and Pong (although that game was definitely a lesson in geometry and physics if I ever saw one), but younger players and hard-core enthusiasts definitely expect consistency in the physics of their video games, even in those physics laws aren’t consistent with the Earth’s physics.