EVE Online Will Allow Players to Search for Real-Life Exoplanets
Have you ever wondered whether or not you have what it takes to become an astrophysicist? Have you ever dreamed of discovering Earth-like planets in our universe? Do you love playing video games? Well, if all of this is true, today is your lucky day. The online game EVE Online has launched Project Discovery, a mini-game that allows players to aid in the real-life search for exoplanets. It might seem too cool to be true, but astrophysicist and professor Michel Mayor, who discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star in 1995, is on board with the project that enables anyone and everyone to become a citizen scientist.
This might sound like a game advertisement but, in all honesty, this is just a really cool idea. Imagine you're immersed in a game, having a great time, and all of a sudden you realize that you've actually discovered an exoplanet. Not only in the game, but in real life. A planet outside of Earth that could potentially hold the first identified alien life.
To connect players with such tangible discovery, the game incorporated actual astronomical data from the CoRoT, a French space observation mission, which uses a telescope that, according to the ESA, is "the first mission capable of detecting rocky planets, several times larger than Earth, around nearby stars". You, playing as a pilot in this mini-game, can analyze this data freely. If many players all analyze the same data and come to some similar conclusion about it, that conclusion will be sent to scientists at the University of Geneva who will evaluate their findings. The developers of this game have the help of Mayor, Reykjavik University, and Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS). And this isn't their first time including video game players in actual scientific advancement: in 2015, they had players assist in image analysis for the Human Protein Atlas. Some have already said that this new installment is an improvement, allowing for more connection to the game itself and longer gameplay.
While this is still just a mini-game, this shows just how important it is to include everyone in the scientific conversation—even those without astrophysics degrees. Citizen science allows for a wide range of backgrounds and expertise to weigh in on complex subjects. And putting that framework into a playable game makes it fun. This isn't like Oregon Trail, some pseudo-educational game that you have to play for homework—this is the chance to take your game playing to the next level, the cosmic level, by using those hours at the computer to discover real-life planets.