You Will Not Go To Space Today

So I bought a new video game recently. While this is not really an unusual thing for me to do, it is unique in that it wasn’t part of a Steam Sale or Humble Bundle. I’ve so far resisted the most recent offensives from that front. Although the game I picked up was on sale for 24 hours; what can I say, it’s a weakness I have.

I picked up Kerbal Space Program.

Now, this is isn’t really a game in the traditional sense. There are no clear-cut goals. There’s no end point. It’s kinda like Minecraft and SimCity in that respect: playing the game is its own reward. So what do you do? Well you build rockets.

And then they explode.

Not all the time, though; that isn’t the true purpose of the game. It’s more of a space program simulator, where you design rockets and/or spaceplanes in an attempt to explore the solar system around Kerbin. You can land on the moon (Mun), or if you’re lucky, visit any other number of planetary analogs to our own solar system. All the while piloting your craft with little green men with vacant stares.

And when I say that it’s more of a simulator than a game, I mean that: this is an interactive experience where a knowledge of orbital mechanics and understanding of physics actually will help. The tutorials do a good job spelling out the (very) basics, but they fall far short (pun kinda intended) when it comes to imparting the wealth of experience needed to play the game well.

Needless to say, I’m not very good at the game yet. My own knowledge of physics is years-rusty, and what is more current is merely statics as applied to buildings. Even back in college, my focus was more on astronomical observation than exploration. I have had several unmanned probes make successful suborbital hops (“Fly? Yes. Land? No!”), but my few attempts at a spaceplane ended in in firery wreckage at the end of a runway.

There are two modes of gameplay, again kinda like Minecraft: a “Sandbox” mode with access to all the parts at once, where you can make towering deathtraps powerful rockets to your heart’s content; and a “Career” mode, where successful (read: recoverable) missions gain you Science Points to unlock more powerful and complicated parts.

But also like Minecraft, games that are powerful yet unsimplified hold a lot of allure for me. After all, who wouldn’t want to design a rocket from scratch, launch a space station, or explore the outer solar system from the comfort of their own office? If these kinds of games appeal to you too, I suggest you try it out. We can be incompetent together!

(title reference)

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