Neil deGrasse Tyson is Creating a New Space Exploration Video Game with the Help of George R.R. Martin & Neil Gaiman

Although Neil deGrasse Tyson is some­what hes­i­tant to go in on plans to ter­raform and col­o­nize Mars, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like a good ol’–yet science-based–video game. Sev­er­al out­lets announced recent­ly that the videogame Space Odyssey, spear­head­ed by deGrasse Tyson–one of America’s main defend­ers of log­ic and Enlightenment–has sur­passed its Kick­starter fund­ing goal. The game promis­es to send play­ers on “real sci­ence-based mis­sions to explore space, col­o­nize plan­ets, cre­ate and mod in real time.”

In the game, accord­ing to deGrasse Tyson, “you con­trol the for­ma­tion of plan­ets, of comets, of life, civ­i­liza­tion. You could maybe tweak the force of grav­i­ty and see what effect that might have.” It will be, he says, “an explo­ration into the laws of physics and how they shape the world in which we live.”

The game has been form­ing for sev­er­al years now, and most impor­tant­ly to our read­ers, has called in sev­er­al sci-fi and fan­ta­sy writ­ers to help cre­ate the var­i­ous worlds in the game, as they have apt­ly demon­strat­ed their skills in doing so on the print­ed page. That includes George R.R. Mar­tin, cur­rent­ly ignor­ing what­ev­er HBO is doing to his cre­ation Game of Thrones; Neil Gaiman, who cre­ates a new uni­verse every time he drops a new nov­el; and Len Wein, who has had a hand in cre­at­ing both DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolver­ine. Also on board: deGrasse Tyson’s bud­dy Bill Nye, for­mer NASA astro­naut Mike Mas­simi­no, and astro­physi­cist Charles Liu.

The idea of world/­galaxy-build­ing is not new in video games, espe­cial­ly recent­ly. No Man’s Sky (2015) fea­tures “eigh­teen quin­til­lion full-fea­tured plan­ets” and Minecraft seems lim­it­less. But Space Odyssey (still a tem­po­rary title!) is the first to have deGrasse Tyson and friends work­ing the con­trols in the back­ground. And a game is as good as the vision­ar­ies behind it.


Accord­ing to the Kick­starter page, the raised funds will go into “the abil­i­ty to have this com­mu­ni­ty play the game and engage with it while the final build is under­way. As the Kick­starter gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty begins to beta test game-play and pro­vide feed­back, we can begin to use the funds raised via Kick­starter to incor­po­rate your mod­ding, map­ping and build­ing sug­ges­tions, togeth­er build­ing the awe­some gam­ing expe­ri­ence you helped to cre­ate.”

DeGrasse Tyson will be in the game him­self, urg­ing play­ers onward. There’s no indi­ca­tion whether Mr. Mar­tin will be pop­ping up, though.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Because of Pink Floyd, I’ve Spent Decades Undo­ing the Idea That There’s a Dark Side of the Moon”

David Byrne & Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain the Impor­tance of an Arts Edu­ca­tion (and How It Strength­ens Sci­ence & Civ­i­liza­tion)

Are We Liv­ing in a Com­put­er Sim­u­la­tion?: A 2‑Hour Debate with Neil Degrasse Tyson, David Chalmers, Lisa Ran­dall, Max Tegmark & More

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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  • Steven says:

    Yeah, no. George RR Mar­tin does­n’t know any­thing about this:

    Nei­ther does Neil Gaiman:

    And on the Kick­starter-Site a com­men­ta­tor explains that:

    “Explore New Worlds — Play­ers can also explore galax­ies cre­at­ed by oth­er play­ers, includ­ing promi­nent sci­en­tists and fic­tion­al world-builders like Tyson, Bill Nye, George R.R. Mar­tin, Neil Gaiman, and Peter Bea­gle.

    That does not say that they are involved, it is sim­ply an exam­ple ref­er­ence of the types of worlds you wil vis­it.”

    Looks rather scam­my to me.

    • Dan Colman says:


      I’m not sure what the bot­tom line is here.

      In a recent Dai­ly Beast inter­view with Tyson, they ref­er­enced the col­lab­o­ra­tion. And it was­n’t some­thing that Tyson dis­avowed.

      Dai­ly Beast: In a recent episode of your pod­cast StarTalk, you dis­cussed the sci­ence behind Game of Thrones. And I know Thrones author George R.R. Mar­tin is involved in Space Odyssey as a world-builder. What did you think of the pre­miere episode?

      Tyson: I’m Down Under and I had to, like, hack into three dif­fer­ent com­put­er sys­tems to see the thing. No, but we did see it legit­i­mate­ly. It is fas­ci­nat­ing how much they’re invest­ing in this world that they’ve cre­at­ed. Inter­est­ing­ly, it had no boobs in it! I think the best part was the end just because that sets up the whole sea­son right there—coming back to the cas­tle [Daen­erys return­ing to Drag­on­stone] and every­one gaz­ing upon it. Ini­tial­ly, I thought the scene was a lit­tle too extend­ed, like alright I get it everyone’s com­ing back, but you need that to devel­op the mood for future episodes.
      For me, Game of Thrones is not so much why every­one else likes it, but I like that they’re cre­at­ing a world that needs to be self-con­sis­tent. Win­ter is com­ing, so what does that mean? I’m think­ing about it as an astro­physi­cist: What kind of plan­et would that be? What kind of orbit would it have? What kind of star is it? It’s clear­ly not Earth, although they’re all humans—well, except for the drag­ons!

      Hard to know what to make of it.


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