Ultimate Space Game Imagined 30 Years Ago by Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan's video game ideas are similar to some of today's space games.


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Astronomer Carl Sagan is possibly best known for encouraging everyone he could to think like a scientist. From his television program Cosmos to his renowned writing, he wanted to make the world a smarter place. But you might not have known he also wanted to make a video game.

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The Library of Congress recently posted numerous articles (via Mia Steinberg's Twitter) written by the famed scientist, including a video game design document from 1983, where Sagan asks the question of "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."

"The size of the galaxy makes it a natural arena for a game in which something is lost and must be found," explained Sagan. "There are two natural starting points -- (1) when we begin on the Earth and have to find something elsewhere in the Milky Way; and (2) when we start outside the Galaxy or at the center of the Galaxy and our job is to find the Earth."

Sagan wrote that it would be important to show players flying through space with astronomical objects streaming by and that the game would ideally occur over a long period time of time, taking the evolution of stars into account. The once confidential paper revolves around the concept of travelling through the Milky Way.

The original Cosmos host talked about an idea of finding "the youngest civilization in the Galaxy in order to help it before it destroys itself," not unlike Civilization: Beyond Earth, which has players building and maintaining a civilization on an extraterrestrial planet after Earth has imploded. Sagan didn't intend for Earth to end, but wrote that "most [societies] generally do" bring themselves to destruction.

Sagan ends his article by noting that it could have been a tie-in to Contact, a science-fiction novel he wrote that was published in 1985 and later adapted into a film in 1997.

Sagan may have passed away almost twenty years ago, but his dream of a space exploration game seems to have lived on. With games like Elite: Dangerous and EVE Online already available, and No Man's Sky coming next year, we're closer to the virtual cosmos than ever.

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