Lost in Space
NASA: Moon Base Alpha was released today on Steam and I was instantly curious to see what this "free" game was all about. The presentation is simple and straightforward and your missions include things like fixing broken equipment and restoring oxygen to living quarters...sort of a space handyman.
The graphics are adequate and the controls feel appropriately sluggish, what with it being the moon and all. The game can also be played with friends, both competitively and cooperatively. But let's face it, the game is very boring. I was ready to turn it off after about five minutes and as I pondered just who the hell this game was aimed at, I was glad that I hadn't paid anything for it.
Instantly, I realized that, "Of course I paid for it. We all paid for it. And we all wasted our money." America's Army was the spiritual predecessor to this game, created by the miltary to serve as a recruiting tool for today's youth. With President Obama stressing that American kids should be urged to appreciate math and science, the goal of Moon Base Alpha is presumably focused to that end. But unlike America's Army, this "recuiting" tool just doesn't work.
Everything a gamer could want...except fun or a legitimate purpose.
First off, President Obama has already stated that going back to the moon is not going to happen under his watch. In fact, NASA is sort of rudderless right now, as the Obama administration scrambles to deal with the oil spill, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian and North Korean nuclear defiance, Russian spies, China's continuing global power plays, and a giant Tea Party movement in his own country. The last thing he's paying attention to is NASA. To make the launch of this game even more preposterous, over the weekend, another scandal erupted when the current head of NASA declared that they are now focusing on improving relations with Muslims. What?!?
The other big problem with this method of "recruiting" is metrics. It's easy enough for an army recruiter to ask a potential enlistee, "Have you played America's Army, and if so, did it encourage you to enlist?" How the hell are we supposed to know of this NASA game is having any effect at all? Even if math and science students grow in number in the next 10 years, we would have no way of knowing why that was happening or if this game had anything to do with it.
At the end of the day, I'm just pissed that, yet again, our government is spending money in places that we know are complete wastes. Moon Base Alpha has as much chance of inspiring kids to be interested in math and science as Just Cause 2's "surfing ICBMs" scene. Not only is the government completely out of touch with what gamers want or are interested in, they have no problem making us foot the bill.
So please go check out Moon Base Alpha for yourself. You might as well, you already paid for it!