Port of Mars

How can we best sustain healthy human communities in space?

Some of the thorniest challenges of human space exploration aren't technological. They're social. We're seeking solutions by engaging the public in the scientific process. And we're making it fun. Port of Mars is a game-based social science experiment designed to discover answers to the question: How can we best sustain healthy human communities in space? Players are citizens of an early Martian community charged with working together to provide for the sustained welfare of the settlement. All player behavior is tracked and recorded. We analyze this data to examine what behaviors and group dynamics 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. Our goals: - To produce new knowledge useful to stakeholders in space exploration and other fields - To create a fun, engaging game - To engage the public in actively solving problems.

Project Goals

  • Produce new knowledge useful to stakeholders in space exploration.
  • Create a fun, engaging game.
  • Engage the public in actively solving problems for the future of humans in space

Key Accomplishments

We have completed an initial pilot study using an analog card game, and are now in the process writing up the results. We have begun the process of creating a digital version of Port of Mars to help us achieve larger sample sizes.


John Marty Anderies 
School of Sustainability - Social scientist 

Lance Gharavi 
School of Film, Dance and Theatre - Project lead

Tanya Harrison 
Mars specialist 

Marco Janssen  
School of Sustainability - Lead social scientist 

Brian Nelson 
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College - Learning Science

Skaidra Smith-Heisters 
School of Human Evolution and Social Change - Social scientist 

Liz Leo 
Wizards of the Coast - Graphic designer

Titus Lunter 
Independent artist - Visual artist 

Brunella Provvidente 
Independent artist Artist/designer 

Michael Yichao 
Riot Games - Game designer

Patrick Young 
School of Earth and Space Exploration - Astrophysics