NASA draws inspiration from World of Warcraft to inspire next generation

The theme of space is one that is closely tied to video and computer games. Games such as Wing Commander and Mass Effect have the ability inspire gamers to pursue space exploration – something that NASA appears to already know.

Last week, the NASA Learning Technologies Project Office issued a request for information (RFI) on the development of a NASA-based massively multiplayer online (MMO) learning game. The goal of such a NASA MMO would be a training tool similar to what the U.S. Army intended to accomplish with the America’s Army game.

“Persistent immersive synthetic environments in the form of massive multiplayer online gaming and social virtual worlds, initially popularized as gaming and social settings, are now finding growing interest as education and training venues,” read the NASA RFI. “There is increasing recognition that these synthetic environments can serve as powerful “hands-on” tools for teaching a range of complex subjects, including STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics]-based instruction.”

“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 – making it easier to grasp complex concepts and quickly transfer this understanding to practical problems,” the document continued. “MMOs help players develop and exercise a skill set closely matching the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills increasingly in demand by employers today. These skills include strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and collaboration, and adaptation to rapid change.”

Trying to interest today’s computer game-savvy population is not a new step for NASA. The agency already has an island in the virtual world of Second Life for those to gather and share interest in the space program.

Parties willing and able to contribute to NASA’s request for information are asked to respond by February 15.

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