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Transdisciplinary researchers at ASU have created a game called Port of Mars to answer this question: “How can we best sustain human communities in space?” The project is one portion of ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative, a group at the University that uses pilot projects to test different theories on how humans might one day explore space. 

The game was open to testers to play in an initial pilot study. Joshua Nitin, an ASU sophomore and mechanical engineering major, said, “The game follows the basic ideologies as Dungeons and Dragons, except it’s in space. That’s something I really like.” 

The question Port of Mars is designed to answer is broad, so researchers narrowed down to a major element of space-colonization: commons dilemmas. 

Project lead Lance Gharavi explains that common dilemmas are strains on society that come from the sharing and upkeep of resources, he said, “If you’ve ever had roommates where you share a kitchen or a bathroom, that becomes a commons for you. Some people will contribute to the upkeep and care of the shared resource…and some people may not.”

A lazy roommate is annoying on Earth but life-threatening in space. Resupplies to Mars would take a long time so it is essential to effectively manage the supplies that colonists do have.

Regarding the outcome of the initial pilot study, Gharavi said: “I’m really proud of how the team worked together to create a game that was doing real science, but that was also fun.” 

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