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Moon NASA Robotics Space Games

Why NASA's New Video Game Misses the Point 205

longacre writes "Erik Sofge trudges through NASA's latest free video game, which he finds tedious, uninspiring and misguided. Quoting: 'Moonbase Alpha is a demo, of sorts, for NASA's more ambitious upcoming game, Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond, which will feature more destinations, and hopefully less welding. The European Space Agency is developing a similar game, set on the Jovian Moon, Europa. But Moonbase Alpha proves that as a recruiting campaign, or even as an educational tool, the astronaut simulation game is a lost cause. Unless NASA plans to veer into science fiction and populate its virtual moons, asteroids and planets with hostile species, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place, while thousands of miles away, the most advanced explorers ever built are hurtling toward asteroids and dwarf planets and into the heart of the sun. Even if it was possible to build an astronaut game that's both exciting and realistic, why bother? It will be more than a decade before humans even attempt another trip outside of Earth's orbit. If NASA wants to inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers, its games should focus on the real winners of the space race — the robots.'"
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Why NASA's New Video Game Misses the Point

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  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:35AM (#33135734) Homepage Journal

    Us nerds think the rovers on Mars are awesome.. your kids don't care. The simple fact is: robots don't explore space, people do, and when they do it through a robot they're doing it from boring desk. Ever taken your kids to work? That was exciting for about 15 minutes wasn't it?

    There's one thing robots in space can never do that humans can: be humans in space.

    And hopefully one day everything we do in space won't have to fly under the banner "exploration".

  • by gravos ( 912628 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:46AM (#33135766) Homepage

    The problem with making a realistic or educational game about anything is that real life generally isn't fun. Space, like everything else, is boring. It's mostly empty with a few rocks here or there, all moving in a very predictable patterns. Even the life of an astronaut is pretty boring, they mostly carefully follow checklists that other people have written.

    Humans are programmed to enjoy a few kinds of very specific things. People are different, but in order to be fun games have to exploit some subset of the quirky things we enjoy. There have to be stories, characters we can relate to, frequently-changing visuals, interesting soundscapes, or worlds we feel like we have more influence over than the drudgery of our daily lives.

    Welding? Not so much.

  • by Vahokif ( 1292866 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:50AM (#33135790)
    I think a sufficiently detailed Mars explorer "game" that uses procedural generation to fill in the gaps in the DEM data in a spectacular manner would be amazing for any age group.
  • and we wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:53AM (#33135800)
    And we wonder why the US is falling behind in science. We have people complaining that a simulation isn't exciting or entertaining enough, when that isn't even the fucking point of it. Maybe if it hadn't been distributed via Steam, we wouldn't have the types of people going through it who are wondering where the guns and aliens are...
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:09AM (#33135886)

    Science Fiction is great entertainment but the televised version of it has certainly spoiled current generations. People on forums ask how much does it cost to build USS Enterprise and if stargates are real. It's no surprise then that an educational game from NASA that is close to reality seems boring. I guess we should praise the people that produced these shows and movies that made them believable, but in the long run they hurt real science.

  • Dumb idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lalena ( 1221394 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:14AM (#33135900) Homepage

    it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place

    Yeah, no one will go for that idea. It's as silly as creating a game where people pay money so they can water virtual flowers in their virtual garden.

  • Re:Dumb idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VShael ( 62735 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:34AM (#33135998) Journal

    It's as silly as creating a game where people pay money so they can water virtual flowers in their virtual garden.

    Yeah, but normally, idiots aren't interested in Nasa.
    They do, however, like bright primary colours.

  • by Beyond_GoodandEvil ( 769135 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:49AM (#33136078) Homepage

    Let the masses fap to what Hollywood feeds them. Get the human DRAMA out of space exploration so we can do _research_.
    Since you expect the masses to pay for your research, you best give them some motherfucking drama else you can research space on a shoe string budget.

  • by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @08:20AM (#33136240)

    Go and see any interview of any astronaut no matter what they did in space they get the usual, "what did you do up there" as a matter of form but most of the time is spent asking "what did it feel like to be in space", "how did you feel when that happened" or similar

    The astronauts do not go to do science or explore, robots can do that better more reliably, cheaper, and we don't need to get them back, astronauts go to experience it ...

  • by Whatsmynickname ( 557867 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @09:59AM (#33137208)
    This game is an example of when you give a government institution (with no reason to stay in business) loads of cash. The manager of this project probably was some government drone who probably had no clue what made a game great, but the government put that person in charge anyways. Both my kids and I are real space fanatics, and we openly mock this sad game. This game drains all the potential wonder and adventure of landing on the moon...

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur