Thibaut Roger (Europlanet Communications Team/Universität Bern) explores the use of games and play-related formats for research and science communication. 

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The use of games and play can be a powerful resource to harness for science and outreach. As an example, ‘Project Discovery’ enlisted 77,709 players of the video game EVE Online in a citizen science project to analyse potential exoplanet transits. In just six months, the Project Discovery players classified a staggering 44.4 million transits in a set of 176,802 light curves from the satellite CoRoT. As well as contributing to an achievement that would have taken the CoRoT science team years to complete, players benefited through in-game rewards. 

Board games can also be used to communicate science in an interactive environment that favours two-way exchanges. With games designed primarily to entertain, and educate as a result, players can have fun without even realising that they are learning. The use of board games in education can have many benefits, particularly for younger children. Along with increasing social interactions and developing critical thinking, players can expand ‘soft skills’ such as negotiation, communication or problem solving. The educational value of board games may not rely so much on the material content of the game (cards, etc.) but in the mechanisms of the game itself, which offer parallels to the scientific process. Educational impact can also be greatly enhanced through appealing artworks or a strong sense of enjoyment derived from playing. 

Collaborative board games, rather than competitive ones, can work particularly well for education. This is good news, as collaborative games are on the increase, winning several high profile prizes in the last few years. With a general resurgence in popularity of board games in recent years across all age groups, there’s never been a better time to try using games during your events. If you don’t feel ready to create your own game, there are many existing games that relate to planetary science. Here are some you could try: 

  • ET – A Solar System Adventure – Developed by the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do espaço, with support from the Europlanet Public Engagement Funding Scheme, this board game explores the different planets of the Solar System and their habitats. The game is available in Portuguese and English. ETAdventureGame 
  • The University of Liège has created games in French and English and on various themes, including astrobiology, building a space mission, and the objects observed by the Athena satellite. ULiegeJeux 
  • Explore Mars! A Rover Game – Available in English and Spanish, this game from Arizona State University puts the players in the shoes of the Mission Control of a martian rover. ExploreMarsGame 

Find out more about gaming and science communication: 

Past Commkit columns

Issue 5 of Europlanet Magazine