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How Stellar! Search For Alien Life In SETI-JAM Games

I want to believe

Space. The final frontier. To boldly go where no man has gone before. Plenty of people have moaned over how we're born too early to travel the cosmos, and too late to be astonished by the fact the world isn't flat. I say, bugger 'em with a side of millennium shrimp. We might not be capable of interstellar staycations yet, but we do have game jams where professional alien hunters from SETI show up for intense chatting.

SETI is, of course, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a group listening to the skies and speculating about alien life. The three-day SETI-JAM in October required its participants to build edutainment games using real SETI data and the Drake equation, a formula estimating the number of technology-savvy societies that might be in our galaxy. At the end, game makers pitched their games to "leading NASA and SETI scientists, aerospace entrepreneurs, and members of 3,000,0000 member strong SETI Institute community."

You can find a list of games that were created and uploaded on the site right over here. Many of the entries feel more functional than fantastical, with graphics that wouldn't look amiss at NASA itself. (Visual Basic reared its head during the game jam.) But there were a few that stood out. Avoid SETI amused me particularly, because it responded to the theme by asking, "What if aliens did not want to be found by the stinking humans?" I also found The Search rather charming, in part of how peculiarly wonky it was.

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Cassandra Khaw avatar

Cassandra Khaw


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