I used to play video games quite a bit. Heck, I taught a class on how to make them for 10 years. Playing video games was research. 🙂 Still, once I got married I played a lot less. Once we had our first child last year, I pretty much stopped playing completely.
This past month though I have found a new game. It’s called Kerbal Space Program by an indy game company called Squad. It’s a strange game. You don’t really have missions or a particular purpose. Instead, you get to control a race of cute green aliens called Kerbals. They have a spaceport and a collection of rocket parts. You then build rockets and send them to explore the solar system. You can also build space probes, and even aircraft.
Beneath the hood though, you will find out there is a strong physics engine. To navigate to other planets you need to understand a bit about orbital mechanics. In fact, it’s a bit of a steep learning curve. I’ve been playing for a month and while I can do navigation, I’m still not perfect at it. You have to manage your resources carefully. Fuel is a precious commodity. As you build your craft, you have to balance weight and thrust in order to be able to perform your mission. I think a game like this could be useful for teaching a number of concepts to students in a fun way! The company has even created something called KerbalEdu where schools can get discounts to let students experiment with physics in the game.
There is a large and active community of players out there who post tutorials on how to do things. There are also a large number of mods you can install to either make it easier, or to increase the challenge.
Now I am a space fan and have been for my whole life, but this game can be a lot of fun for anyone who likes problem solving. It’s not easy, but when you successfully touch down on another planet it is a very satisfying feeling. 🙂