Comment »Posted on Monday 23 February 2009 at 5:58 pm by Jacob Aron
In Education, Space & Astronomy

I don’t think I’ve posted before about NASA developing a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, but I recently read a preview that I thought I’d share.

For the uninitiated, an MMO game is one in which large numbers of players come together in a shared game world. Rather than playing your own single player game, you can team up with people across the globe. The most popular of the genre is the fantasy based World of Warcraft, but NASA are hoping that their game, with its basis in reality, could be a tool for learning as well as fun.

A screenshot from the NASA MMO.
A screenshot from the NASA MMO.

The game, set around the year 2035, is being created for NASA by development company Virtual Heroes, who also produced America’s Army for the US military. In-game missions will include dealing with the possibility of an asteroid impact on Earth and mining other planets for fuel. Completing these tasks will build your persistent character and unlock new abilities and places to visit, much like in other MMOs.

Interestingly, the game will also encourage players to work together to stave off virtual climate change. Founder and CEO of Virtual Worlds, Jerry Heneghan, explains:

“There is a component for the space station that needs to be built to combat the environmental concerns around an impending event that is happening,” explained Heneghan. “People are actually cooperating together to mitigate this crises. There is a sense of urgency about the gameplay in which players will want to get better and not let their team down. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”

It’s not just futuristic missions that will be available, however. Virtual Worlds also plan to include historical scenarios such as the Apollo missions, allowing players to relive moments like to Moon landings from a first person perspective.

Sounds fun, but why is NASA spending money on building a game instead of spaceships? The idea is to inspire players to become NASA’s next generation, and to encourage an interest in science. An interesting concept, but we’ll have to wait until the first part of the game is released this autumn.

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