Science is a subject many people find hard to relate to. Some of the concepts are abstract and, many times, difficult to explain and understand. Even though understanding and applying these concepts is essential to our everyday life, many times they don’t translate into practical uses like new gadgets or appliances so, for many people, they’re just a mystery.
Sci-Fi shows have made many of these subjects more accessible to people. By mixing them with an interesting plot, people are more attracted and open to understanding them and now video games are following on this idea.
The Mass Effect series is one of the games mixing science with story in a fun way. In this case, the game introduces the concept of dark matter into its core mechanics. Dark matter is a concept theorized by many physicists as an explanation for the constant and increasing expansion of the universe, but Mass Effect puts it to a different and probably more interesting use.
The game introduces the concept of “biotics,” beings (human or otherwise) that can control dark energy and use it to move objects and affect their surroundings. This ability endows biotics with Jedi-like abilities making them fearsome fighters. This same energy allows for faster-than-light travel and other technological wonders that populate the game. This phenomenon, called “mass effect” in the game world, is what gives the series its name. All this is explained throughout the game giving players access to this subject in a more entertaining way.
Even though applications like these are probably stretching it too far, dark matter still holds many secrets for scientists and eventually those secrets might yield stranger answers. By exposing the subject to a broader audience there’s a chance for more people to get interested in it and probably eventually involved. This could finally lead to a better understanding of dark matter and its interactions as well as the discovery of applications that make our life better and easier.
Video games are a great way for learning new stuff and I hope they keep on getting mainstream appeal and applications other than entertainment. Who knows, maybe if this catches on, people in the near future will get all their education from interactive simulations not too different from today’s video games.
Mass Effect 2 is currently available for Xbox 360 and PC (Windows). Mass Effect was released November 2007 for Xbox 360 and May 2008 for PC (Windows).
Image credit: Bioware