In the future, astronauts might play MMORPGs to fend off boredom


It’s hard to imagine being bored in that scenario

You’ve got to be kidding me. Next you’ll say that hour after hour of repetitive, mind-numbing laboratory benchwork is a non-stop thrill ride of scientific discovery.

If they’re trying to avoid boredom, Star Trek Online is probably not the best solution.

In fact MMORPGs seem like a bad idea when your latency to the server is measured in minutes, and it’s hard to imagine a Massively Multiplayer game when you’re talking about a crew of 4-6 people.

The idea that astronauts will need some games to pass the time while on what is an extremely long flight seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me.

They probably won’t even have much work to do. Most of the time is spent just watching the distance counter tick down. They probably can’t bring too many experiments with them on the trip, because the per-lb costs for a Mars launch are astronomical, even by space standards, and most microgravity experiments can be conducted in satellites or the ISS much cheaper.

Poul Anderson wrote a short story about this. It might have been “The Saturn Game.” Short version: The astronauts get so enthralled by the game that by the time they reach their destination they are in no shape (mentally) to do any exploration.


If there’s no XKCD for this, perhaps there’s a Philip Dick novel for it. Like, say, Which I can highly recommend.

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Yeah, it’s not hard to imagine a group of hopeless WoW junkies arriving on Mars and deciding that WoW is more interesting anyway. People get totally sucked up my MMOs all the time, to the detriment of their job, family, life, etc…

In fact MMORPGs seem like a bad idea when your latency to the server
is measured in minutes, and it’s hard to imagine a Massively
Multiplayer game when you’re talking about a crew of 4-6 people.

That’s why Bishop is proposing a hybrid game that allows an Earth-based MMPORG to create changing conditions and scenarios for astronauts who don’t play in real-time.

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Click… Buzz… Computer Voice: “Game Over, Crew.”

Everyone lifts their VR helmets off…

“OK, this time Ripley won, but the Nostromo got destroyed. Same time tomorrow?”


Seems like it might be good for a return to PBEM (Play By E-Mail) games.

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You forgot the part where Hudson says, “Game over man, game over.”

You know what would be way better that an MMORPG with no deep space delays or technical difficulties?

Just a classic tabletop RPG.

Give them a D&d manual pack, or a Vampire one, even a Song of Fire and Ice one, or Eclipse Phase, Call of Cthulhu, or if you are feeling particularly evil and want the spaceship to end like “Event Horizon” just give em F.A.T.A.L.

The only problem I see are dices flying all around the spaceship.

MMORPG, pshaw! Give me a complete NES, SNES, NEO GEO, MAME and Mega Drive library (maybe on an OUYA?) and I´ll be set for the trip.


The latency issue obviously makes Earth-based server play impossible. But what’s being suggested would require a server onboard the ship that also has asynchronous play elements that allow indirect interactions with people back on Earth (as with many Facebook and other web games). Despite the name, plenty of “Massively” Multiplayer games rely on small groups (of around 4-6 people, coincidentally), aka “parties” as the main social group size. (And a few games have called themselves “MMOs” despite only allowing players to interact with 5 other people.) So no guild raids, but they could engage in what’s standard co-op play for a lot of games.

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The downside is that, due to latency, most interactions will have to be with NPCs. However, NASA will certainly not follow Rule 34, and that kind of kills the whole idea. Nasa is very strait-laced.

That’s not really massive multiplayer anymore then. You just have a glorified multiplayer game, maybe using assets from an MMO, but without the interaction with the other players.

Not one game but lots of games. (all the good ones)

Plus all the books, movies and TV shows ever.

Wouldn’t take much space. Does copyright even count in space?

I try to convey this point to everyone who gets excited by all this one-way trip to Mars talk recently. Combining the worst parts of living in Barstow with the worst parts of living on a Submarine!

People playing Star Trek Online to stave off boredom seems like a bad idea.

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Surely an electronic reader loaded up with the worlds greatest works of literature plus maybe a good selection of books on topics the astronauts have an interest in exploring would be more than enough to keep them interested??

Or how about adding a hard disk containing the top 1000 movies of all time, just to mix it up!