A few years ago, NASA held a research challenge looking for a developer and game proposal for an educational, space-themed video game that could not only be extremely educational, but also fun and commercially viable. Now, four years later, we've started to see the fruits of that challenge, as Canadian developer Project Whitecard has created a Kickstarter video preview, asking the public at large for donations to boost the project along (for the record, its goal has already been met).
The game is called Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond, and it will play like an MMO set in the year 2035. Space flight for the average citizen is now not only available, but actually encouraged, as players will make their way through our solar system (and potentially beyond), landing on Mars and exploring other celestial bodies with both friends and strangers alike. In the game's story, a threat to "civilization as we know it" has emerged, and you'll need to build a base somewhere in outer space (yes, Mars is an option) and eventually outfit a team of other players or potentially NPCs (non-player characters) with high-tech gear to fight back.
Astronauts is described by the developers as being Harry Potter in space, as players are centered around the Arthur C. Clarke Astronaut Academy Station, which is the game's version of "Hogwarts." We'll be assigned missions in this fictional version of outer space, and can then go about our business in either player vs. environment or team vs. team modes. True scientific challenges will appear in the game, as we'll need to worry about radiation, extreme heat or cold and other elements that true-to-life astronauts and NASA as a whole must deal with everyday.
If everything goes well for Project Whitecard, we can expect to see the full launch of Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond on PC, Mac and iOS in December of 2012. Sure, that's a long time to wait, but hey - space is a pretty big place to recreate.
Are you interested in trying out Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond when it launches? Will you donate any money to the cause of helping the game reach final production? What do you think of educational video games - do they have a place, or are they out of touch with what gamers want? Sound off in the comments.