Port of Mars

How can we sustain healthy human communities in space? We’ve designed a game to find solutions.

We’re researching effective strategies for navigating dilemmas of shared resources, common good, and collective action under conditions of high uncertainty and high risk. Like those in space, for instance. Players are citizens of an early Martian community charged with working together to provide for the sustained welfare of the settlement. All player actions are tracked and analyzed. We examine what behaviors tend to produce success, and what tends to produce failure. Each instance of gameplay is a simulation, a modeling exercise for future human space communities.

Project goals

  • To produce new knowledge useful to stakeholders in space exploration and other fields
  • To create a fun, engaging game
  • To involve the public in actively solving problems for the future of human space exploration, and for challenges here on Earth.

Key accomplishments

  • Creation of a card-based Port of Mars game
  • Pilot study 
  • Publication of pilot study results: “Keeping Up Shared Infrastructure on a Port of Mars: An Experimental Study” in the International Journal of the Commons, 2020.
  • Digital version of Port of Mars to improve data collection and increase sample sizes
  • New, larger study with digital version: The Mars Madness Tournament


Lance Gharavi 
Project Lead, School of Music, Dance and Theatre, ASU

Elizabeth Castillo 
Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, ASU

Marco Janssen  
Lead Social Scientist, School of Sustainability, ASU

Tanya Harrison 
Planetary Scientist, Planet

Robert Kirsch 
Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, ASU

Allen Lee 
Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment, ASU

Christine Nguyen 
Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative, ASU

Calvin Pritchard 
Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment, ASU

Mai Trinh
Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, ASU

Patrick Young 
School of Earth and Space Exploration, ASU

Michael Yichao
Riot Games

Christina Carrasquilla 
Graphic Information Technology, ASU