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Quick Definition

A hitbox is a defined area that can be used to detect collisions. For example, the buttons on your computer screen all have their own hitbox. This allows them to know when you've clicked or tapped on them, as they simply check if your mouse was over their hitbox when you clicked.

Most of the time, a character's hitbox is just within the boundaries of their sprite. Thus, when two sprites overlap, the game detects that the characters or objects represented by those sprites have collided.

Bullet Hell games are a famous aversion of this trend, as the player's hitbox is usually a very small rectangle in the center of their ship. This means that anything that doesn't pass directly through the center of your ship misses you completely.