Dark side of the jam

  • CanadArm: Find out how guiding a giant, articulated arm toward the Hubble Telescope is like trying to make a sock puppet dance by shouting at it.
  • Rocket Builder: Build your own rocket and watch as it fails utterly to be useful.
  • Spaceal Latency [sic]: Moving a satellite through a series of obstacles becomes harder and harder as the craft’s distance from Earth introduces an increasing comms delay.
  • The Surface of Mars: Aside from the odd bit of poetic licence, this game uses real data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter.
Date:4 May 2013 Author: Rogan Louwrens


Video games and space travel were born to be together. After all, what is space but a giant, lethal, multi-trillion-dollar playground in which to make things go pew?

Let’s be serious, now. Space is serious. After all, how much longer do we expect the Earth to keep going before it collapses under the combined weight of humanity?

So it was only a matter of time before somebody – in this case, those bold individuals over at the Night Rover Challenge – set up Dark Side of the Jam, a wonderfully named game jam (honouring the 40th anniversary  of Pink Floyd’s album, of course) calling on developers to spend the weekend of 8 to 10 March making games that illustrate the awesomeness of space science. Even better, Nasa made available its extensive catalogue of digital assets, and hosted a number of jammers in the Ames Research Centre. Good grief, right?

Some of the games are a bit rubbish, and all of them are somewhat rough around the edges, but that’s only to be  expected. The best ones give insight into the sort of challenges we face in exploring the great yonder, which is more than you can say for hopscotch.

Want to play them? Head over to www.darksidejam.com

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