No Man’s Sky was billed as a game like no other before it, and for me at least, it was exactly that. From the moment I stepped off my ship onto my home planet, I was enthralled. Forced to gather minerals to survive, I was constantly on edge, but once I found sufficient sustenance, the planet beckoned me. This was an alien world, one that no other human had ever laid eyes on. Every object I saw in the distance drew me further and further from the safety of my ship. I explored caves, mined gold, was attacked by predatory animals, discovered dozens of plant species, climbed mountains, ALL on this singular world of mine. No game has ever given me an experience quite like this before, and I thank No Man’s Sky for allowing me the opportunity to go places no one has ever been before. To me, that alone is something quite extraordinary.
That being said, I understand that the random nature of the game will make each and every player’s experiences vary, in some cases, greatly. In fact, I am fairly sure that my initial experience with No Man’s Sky was in the extreme minority. Most players reported being dumped on barren wastelands, forced to scavenge empty worlds devoid of life or subsistence. Players reported being unable to survive and forced to restart until a more favorable planet was found. And once people finally got off world, they complained of a great many things; the “sameness” of this procedurally generated universe, bad flight controls, aliens that did nothing, grinding that was excessive, animals that didn’t behave like animals, multiplayer modes that didn’t exist, quests that had no meaning, space stations that were all the same, an inventory system that was cumbersome, and most of all, a complete and utter lack of purpose.
You know, I can’t disagree with some of these assessments. However, if you peer through the fog of war, No Man’s Sky was always meant to be a work in progress-technically-innovative-indie-oddity, not a top tier AAA release. But (in my humble opinion) thanks to Sony’s marketing pressure, an incredibly enthusiastic lead developer, and an unrealistic price point, No Man’s Sky was fated to be an impossibility years before it was even released. What should have been a Steam Early Access project, was instead released as a complete AAA packaged experience. What could possibly go wrong?
I don’t need to regurgitate the details of what happened between 2014-2016, or why the game became so maligned upon it’s release. Everyone knows that story, to the tune of thousands of Reddit posts, hateful tweets, Facebook tirades and Joe Schmo blogs of apocalyptic fury. Everyone has an ornery opinion about something, and they are entitled to it. But what has troubled me since the release of No Man’s Sky, and in essence, the US Election of 2016, is social media’s ability to thoroughly eviscerate a topic or idea. There are no longer opinions on social media, only facts. These facts take the form of links to news sites who favor an agenda, or perhaps conspiracy theory YouTube videos, or better yet, political (or gaming) pundits barking their evidence at your screen. And lets not forget the glorious memes that agree with your facts in a dozen bullet pointed ideas that sway no one, but anger everyone. This is what we have devolved into, an unwieldy pack of anonymous scholars, each with an encyclopedia of facts at our fingertips.
Sadly, the damage has been done. No Man’s Sky is an utterly toxic name. As noxious as either Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton in our year of 2016. A year characterized by fear, misinformation and personal echo chambers of hatred and despair. In my opinion, no single game has ever created such a firestorm of animosity and unconstructive feedback by the masses. It was an unprecedented game in an unprecedented time, combined to form the perfect nightmare of rancid speculation. This negative conjecture nearly made me pass on purchasing the game at all, but thankfully, I knew better.
This may sound silly, but it was difficult for me to actually play No Man’s Sky. Not because the game was boring or terrible, but because I loved it. I wanted to share my joy of discovery with social media, so I did, and was crucified for it. From my very first tweet stating that I had purchased the game (at the full retail $60 price), I was attacked, mercilessly. People who had never even played the game badgered me about why I would support such an abhorrent company that would trick people into buying such a terrible game. “What terrible game?” I asked. I just didn’t understand, and still don’t. Of course, people are allowed to not like something, but why attack me because I do? It’s vexing, and unfortunately, it comes with the territory when you are dealing with something like the internet, and humanities inability to fully grasp it.
Social media is a wonderful, terrible thing. Twitter is probably one of my favorite things in the world, if I’m being honest. I have made so many friends and discovered so many incredible things. Facebook can also be a great way to keep in touch with people, share information and be exposed to new ideas. But the year 2016 brought us an election nobody wanted, and a game everybody thought they wanted. Social media, for all the good it sometimes brings, was the catalyst that broke new ground in juvenile, barbaric ideology that filled our internet packets with the putrefied stench of closed mindedness. Humanity still doesn’t quite understand what to do with this social media phenomenon, and we still have a long way to go before we do.
The longer I read and watched the reactions to No Man’s Sky, the more I pulled away from the game. Eventually, I stopped playing it. Not because I was bored, but because the joy had been swamped by the noise. I imagine I could have blocked it all out, but for me, I like to share my experiences, especially when playing a game I love. But in the social climate of 2016, it’s difficult to say anything joyful without someone shitting on your positivity parade.
Now, to be clear, not all the reactions I got were negative. I came across kind, supportive people who also loved the game (and still do). It would also appear that despite all the seemingly insurmountable negative feedback, No Man’s Sky has garnered a bit of a following. Not only that, but a patch was recently released that added massive amounts of content to the game, for free. A good portion of these items addressed or even fixed many of the issues that were complained about at launch. It would appear that No Man’s Sky, despite the long odds, does in fact have a future. Following in the footsteps of “broken” launch games such as Assassin’s Creed Unity and Diablo 3, I believe that eventually, it will work out.
For the record, I plan on returning to No Man’s Sky. The new patch has invigorated me, and it proves that the team that built this game still cares and will fulfill the promise of what the game was truly meant to be (despite the obvious missteps along the way). Many of the angry AAA CoD players who thought they were getting blood-splatter-alien blaster-simulator may still cry foul, but I don’t care. If I’ve learned anything from my time on social media, it’s this:
Focus on the positive, let the negative pass you by, like a planet full of flesh eating beasts on a distant green world.
Be kind to your fellow human beings….