Monday, March 16, 2009


Stefan asked in the open Sunday thread what we all think about NASA's plan to develop an MMO. NASA thinks that "Persistent immersive synthetic environments in the form of massive multiplayer online gaming and social virtual world, initially popularized as gaming and social settings, are now finding growing interest as education and training venues. There is increasing recognition that these synthetic environments can serve as powerful “hands-on” tools for teaching a range of complex subjects." And we were just discussing learning from video games last week. :)

While I am certainly not agains MMOs or science education, I have to wonder whether it is NASA's job to spend taxpayer's money on an MMO. I don't think they will be particularly good at it. There is a distinctive risk that a game that sets out to be educational ends up being not much fun at all, and ultimately not teaching anything, because nobody wants to play it. You have a higher chance to learn something involuntarily in a game designed to be primarily fun, for example learning about basic economics of supply and demand by playing the WoW auction house.

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