Video games and virtual worlds are a great way to inspire kids' interest in science and technology. The President's Commission on Implementation of US Space Exploration Policy reports that "...video and simulation games are not only a multi-billion dollar industry, they are proving to be effective as learning devices for people of all ages" ... "The potential for converting hobbies and amusements to more educational pursuits is enormous."
The soon-to-be-released Astrobiology-based game Spore by Electronic Arts (EA) is described as "an epic journey that takes you from the origin and evolution of life through the development of civilization and technology, and eventually all the way into the deepest reaches of outer space." Spore explorers can wage epic battles for survival in the primordial soup, meet, greet, and co-evolve with other creatures, be part of a tribe and build a civilization, build a space ship, and explore the final frontier.
NAI recently collaborated with the Spore team in an exhibit for Yuri's Night Bay Area 2008 at NASA Ames Research Center on April 12th. Highlighting the science of astrobiology, and giving a sneak preview and hands-on demonstrations of the game, the exhibit had a steady stream of visitors throughout the event. Who knows, perhaps some of the cosmic adventurers who played with Spore at Yuri's Night are the astrobiologists of tomorrow!