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New website peels back the skin from video games to show you how they work

Modern video games are massive beasts assembled from millions of lines of code. An average AAA production consumes thousands of working hours spread over multiple years. Daunting as they may seem, they have achieved this level of complexity by building on a growing vocabulary of common elements that are generally referred to as “mechanics”: walking, jumping, shooting, and the like.

Web developer John Watson has created the extremely cool Game Mechanic Explorer to help demystify some of video game programming’s basic syntax as a part of his self-guided study in game development. The site uses simple, interactive JavaScript apps to demonstrate various basic game mechanisms such as walking and jumping, bullets, lighting, and following.

Each category is broken down into variations with incrementally increasing complexity (such as the addition of acceleration and drag under “Walking and jumping” mechanics) and presented along with the heavily-annotated source code to demonstrate how these simple functions are built up into the seamless simulations we love so much. The technical aspects may be a bit much for the casual visitor, but the collection of interactive examples amounts to a good primer looking at the building blocks of most every video game.

Whether you’re a fellow developer looking to share notes or simply an interested player hoping to sneak a peek behind the curtain, Game Mechanic Explorer is a neat way to appreciate the work and ingenuity that goes into making even the most ostensibly simple games.