Physics programmer

Also known as: Vehicle dynamics programmer

Physics programmer

What does a physics programmer do?

Physics programmers create software that forms the basis of crashes, collisions and other things that move. When, for example, a car drives through water or bursts into flames, the effect needs to be similar to what would happen in real life. Physics programmers write the code, based on the laws of physics, to make this happen. It requires high-level knowledge of both physics and programming. It also requires a sense of gameplay and the right blend of realism and fun.


What’s a physics programmer good at?

  • Physics: have a firm knowledge of algebra, trigonometry and maths as well as the laws of physics
  • Programming: be able to program in new scripting languages and systems
  • Knowledge of games engines and platforms: understand the programming requirements and constraints of games consoles, PCs, handhelds and mobiles
  • Knowledge of gameplay: understand how the physics effects will add to the player’s enjoyment of the game
  • Innovation: develop cutting-edge systems and use them in creative ways
  • Communication: share expertise with other team members like testers, animators and AI programmers.

Who does a physics programmer work with?

Physics programmers work with other departments such as animation and artificial intelligence (AI). They also work closely with testers and report to the lead programmer.

How do you become a physics programmer?

This is not an entry level role. Some studios take on junior physics programmers but even then, they require some experience of games programming. It can be useful to work as a QA technician to understand the industry and then move into being a generalist programmer before moving into physics programming. Go to the generalist programmer job profile for details of how to do this.

At school or college:
Take A-levels or Highers in maths, physics and computer science. Or you might could do a BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma in Computing. If you enjoy biology or art, you could take them too, as that will contribute to your understanding of games.

Build a portfolio:
Create work that you can show off to employers. This is essential. Go to build your games portfolio to learn how.

Start modding:
Create levels of a game using software provided by the publishers.

Get a degree:
An increasing number of physics programmers have master’s degrees and PhDs.  Get a degree in, physics, computer programming, game development or advanced mathematics. Or h
ave a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in games and select one in programming. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.

Get to know people in the games industry by attending events, including games conferences and expos. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to Network well to learn how to do this.

Search for jobs:
Use the UK Games Map to find out if there are games companies near you. Then go to their websites directly and check out their open roles. Look for a generalist or junior programmer role first.

You might also be interested in…

Being a technical animator, graphics programmer, gameplay programmer, an artificial intelligence (AI) programmer, a virtual reality (VR) programmer, tools engineer, an engine programmer or a network programmer in the games industry. You might also be interested in being a software developer in visual effects. Alternatively, you could consider a technical director (TD) role in VFX or in the animation industry.

Further resources