Got game? NASA wants to know

NASA wants to make a massive online game in which dozens of players can band together to conquer a common enemy: physics experiments.

The agency’s Learning Technologies Project Office released a request for information to create an online world where players can tinker with experiments that apply science, technology, engineering and math concepts.

NASA wants the game to sport a powerful physics engine so that players can engage in scientifically accurate experimentation and research in-game.

“Virtual worlds with scientifically accurate simulations could permit learners to tinker with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, and experience microgravity,” NASA said in the RFI.

The space agency wants to include a virtual laboratory where many players can participate in a large-scale experiment.

NASA wants to know how such an educational world should be designed, how such a game could support education, how it could connect to current and future NASA missions, how job opportunities or career planning could be integrated and how to make the game fun.

Online games occur in real time and let players interact with one another. Several agencies — including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — already have virtual offices and simulations within one such game: Second Life. NASA built a full-scale version of a space shuttle and the International Space Station in-game, while NOAA’s office includes a plane ride through a hurricane.

The most popular massive online game is Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, which as of November had more than 9.3 million subscribers worldwide.

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