Touching the Night Talk: Is science game feasible?

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Some time ago, the Xinhua News Agency’s WeChat official account published a review article “Don’t ignore the technological value of the game industry”. The article mentioned the value of many games beyond entertainment. “Don’t ignore these values,” the article said. This reminds me of a man who said something similar.
The speaker is called “Dr. Deng”. At the 2022 annual meeting of the game industry, the game “Lighthouse Plan” developed by Dr. Deng won the nomination award for the excellent social value game. The reason for winning this nomination is that “Lighthouse Project” is not a pure game. Just as we often say how gameplay this game is when we talk about games, the special feature of “Lighthouse Project” is that it turns gameplay into “scientific”.
Perhaps you have heard of this news: at the beginning of last year, a high school student participated in front-line scientific research through a scientific interactive game, and also co-published a paper in the international authoritative academic journal of astronomy.
The science interactive game in the news is “The Lighthouse Project”. It sounds pretty good to conduct scientific research and publish papers while playing games – but the reality is that after a short period of testing last year, nearly half a year has passed, and the “Lighthouse Project” has not really been launched yet. Dr. Deng and I complained that they were not online because “no one played during the test”.
Dr. Deng’s impression on me is shown in this picture
According to Dr. Deng’s dream, he wants to make a product that not only has rich scientific practice, but also allows everyone to play. There is no conflict between “scientific” and “gameplay”. He said to me, “Like playing games, scientific research is also a variety of explorations based on curiosity.” It is difficult for me to argue with Dr. Deng about the nature of games. He has read many books related to game design with the attitude of reading literature, and has his own set of indestructible views on this.
Then Dr. Deng made the game and stumbled in the middle, but finally he basically achieved his goal – there is a detailed scientific history and popular science in the game, as well as a starry sky observation based on real data. The player’s observation results can be uploaded to him to provide data for scientific researchers.
Everything was very good, but in the end, he found that there were not many people willing to play this game, which made him discouraged, and the “Lighthouse Plan” also sat on the cold bench.
Dr. Deng once felt that no one played the game because the player group did not have enough scientific literacy. Unlike Dr. Deng’s indignation, I was thinking: Can a game really carry such a heavy meaning? Or, where is the boundary of the game?
I have noticed a phenomenon very early. When our game industry wants to “correct the name” of the game and prove to all people who don’t know the game how useful and special the game is, we often mention that the game has incomparable interactivity. It is this interactivity that distinguishes it from movies, books or anything else – this is a very convenient statement, because it can be imaginative, It can go on to say that games can be combined with everything, such as interactive movie games, interactive novel games, or interactive science games, just like the Lighthouse Project.
I didn’t ask Dr. Deng, but I suspect he might have heard the same statement at the beginning. Even among players, whether “interactive novel” is a game has been debated for a long time. Finally, people who like to read novels and people who like to play games have not been integrated.
Game has always been a very vague thing. You can say that it is this or that, but in the end, the test of whether it is a real game depends on the audience – it attracts many people who are running to “play”, or a small number of people who like to watch movies and read novels in the player group, or just like to watch movies and read novels, and very few people who open the software by mistake.
These three audiences are different from each other.
In my opinion, the audience of the game made by Dr. Deng belongs to the second category – they certainly play the game, so they will know the “Lighthouse Plan”, but they definitely do not want to download the game for entertainment. They have some other desires, mixed with some other ideas, such as contempt for the chain, yearning for the stars, or want to find data from it to become famous.
Dr. Deng also understood this later, so he simply stopped playing games. Instead of screening scientific research enthusiasts among the game players, he might as well directly make clickable educational interactive videos – is this also a game? Dr. Deng didn’t tell me that educational interactive video is a game anymore. He said that what he did was called scientific interactive software.
Dr. Deng decided to make an interactive video of children’s education
In the end, Dr. Deng’s story told me that the game will ultimately be used to bring people happiness. It needs to have a pure fun part. The concept of “fun” is very broad, but more importantly, it is pure. Of course, games can be said to be “cultural carriers with strong adaptability and entertainment functions”. I have no objection to using slogans like this to justify the name of the game. But if you take this seriously, please go to Dr. Deng and ask him to tell you what is a game belongs to games, and movies, novels, science and other things belong to others.