Two years before astrophysicist Carl Sagan released his novel, Contact, he saw the growing possibilities of a new and popular technology known as video games. In a letter written by the Cosmos host in 1983, the astrophysicist pitched a concept for a video game—based on Contact—that would work to help teach kids about space. The document, which was one of many Sagan’s personal documents that were donated to the Library of Congress back in 2012, detailed a very Star Trek-style game where players would have to navigate space to help a distant civilization.
“The question,” the document begins, “is how to design a home video game which would teach a great deal of astronomy in a context as exciting as most violent video games.” Sagan’s document goes on to imagine a game with two possible gameplay styles. One where the player ventures away from Earth to find alien civilizations, the other having them take on the role of the aliens and try to find Earth.
“If the goal depended on pattern recognition, the general geography of the Milky Way Galaxy could be taught expeditiously,” it says. “The size of the galaxy makes it a natural arena for a game in which something is lost and must be found.”
With the types of games are made today—especially forthcoming space adventure No Man’s Sky—one can only wonder what kind of idea Sagan could have brought to the table.
Would you have played a Sagan video game? Let us know in the comments below!
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