The society research lab, also called the "game room", is an area on the East Pier of Atlantis which was found by Dr. Rodney McKay and Lt. Colonel John Sheppard during the Atlantis expedition's first year in Atlantis. It was conceived as a large scale society research project.
A series of observation satellites are set in a grid pattern over various planets to monitor specific societies. The data from these satellites is transmitted to the lab. The lab contains consoles which allow the user to influence virtually all aspects of a developing culture. These commands are relayed from Atlantis through subspace to the satellite grid over the relevant planet, then relayed to control stations on the planet for the culture to carry out.
Originally, McKay and Sheppard believed the program to be a complex simulation in which two towns are separated by a river. Sheppard controlled one while McKay controlled the other. Treating it as a game, they quickly developed a rivalry and their two cultures were eventually on the brink of war. During an offworld mission, Major Evan Lorne discovered that they were in fact controlling real towns on another planet. McKay and Sheppard thus had to avert the war they started. Dr. Radek Zelenka discovered that the Ancients had set up numerous societies in this manner, and managed to unlock the additional groups. He and Lorne quickly developed a similar rivalry over two towns, at which point Dr. Elizabeth Weir ordered the room sealed and the power cut. (SGA: "The Game")