Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post
“There are more higher-end gaming projects going on at NASA than ever before,” Laughlin said. “Very few people are looking to textbooks to get students inspired anymore.”
But as the agency grapples with persistent education budget cuts, NASA is experimenting with new business models to fund upcoming projects.
When Laughlin first started working for NASA 10 years ago, the agency’s approach to gaming was very straightforward: NASA solicited proposals for educational ventures and then picked a handful of projects to fund every year.
But once budget cuts began rippling through the agency, finding the funding for NASA’s own projects, much less outside proposals, became much more difficult.
“We had to turn that model around,” Laughlin said. “We said, ‘Okay, we want to do something specific — we want to make this kind of game, and we want you to fund it.’ ”
There are some downsides to this commercial approach, Laughlin said. Universities and other research institutions that relied on NASA grants to do their work were completely out of the running. Instead, the model shifted toward big-name developers who could finance the project from start to finish.
In the long run, though, Laughlin said it may be for the best. The new model forces developers to think in terms of continued profit and visibility.
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