Astronaut Chris Hadfield discusses how video games aid imagination
I had the chance to interview Chris Hadfield during filming of a video about the upcoming family space adventure game, Starlink: Battle For Atlas.
He spent some time with the game and discussing how having physical toys can add to the experience. “As astronauts we live in video-games because simulators allow us to get ready for being on a space ship.”
But more interesting, he reflected on how his own journey from child to astronaut was founded on being able to imagine the impossible from a young age. “A game like Starlink becomes compelling so you can actually imagine yourself doing these things… The whole purpose of these toys, really, is to open the imagination.”
Video games are often just seen as entertainment. They are that, but they are also an entirely new way for us to engage our imagination and tell fantastical stories.
In Starlink Battle for Atlas this extends from the screen to the living room carpet with a range of toys that unlock craft in the game. What’s unusual about this toys-to-life game, though, is that you can take the ships apart and re-assemble them in different ways.
The game instantly recognises how you’ve constructed your toy and reflects this in the game. This is something that even Lego Dimensions didn’t do.
“If it’s just a toy on a shelf that’s one thing”, said Hadfield, “but if you can reconfigure it to your own liking, suddenly you’re not just an observer. You’re part of what’s happening.”
It’s this imaginative quality of games that parents I speak to really value. As Hadfield put it, “Interacting with a game is like someone kicking a door open that you never thought you could walk through. To allow a young person to imagine a world that doesn’t exist yet and see themselves as part of that change.”
Starlink Battle for Atlas is available on Switch, PS4 and Xbox One on 16th October.