Pink Floyd is my favourite band. I’ve been listening since back in 1990, when a girl I was going to high school with loaned me a cassette copy of The Wall to listen too. I dubbed it, and while I didn’t really understand what I was listening to at the time, I still found myself transfixed by the double album, enough so that I began exploring the band’s entire catalog. I feel in love with the trippiness of albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, Wish You Were Here, and Meddle. There were layers to all these recordings – explorations of sounds and lyrical meanings. I didn’t need to “get it” to get into it.
And that, my friend, is how I feel playing the new galaxy exploration video game, No Man’s Sky.
Released a few week ago for PlayStation 4 to much fanfare and anticipation from gamers around the world, in No Man’s Sky you’re a star pilot whose only goal appears to be explore the galaxy in front of you. I say appears because the game transplants you right in media res of your experience. You’ve crash landed on a planet, and it’s up to you to figure your way off. Your only help is a tool you’ll use to mine for various resources to fix your ship, your suit and more. Find your way off-planet and the galaxy is your only limit.
As I wandered around this first, desolate planet, inhabited by few living creatures and robot floating Sentinels, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loneliness. No Man’s Sky isn’t about team-building or multi-player action. At its most base, it is about solo exploration and the choices you make on your own. The game’s soundtrack is minimal, and feels like Meddle-era Pink Floyd (“Echoes,” specifically speaking) and helps create that sense of desolation. Yes, there are other species and you’ll interact with them to a certain degree, but apart from a trip to a space station, the planets I’ve visited so far have been bereft of intelligent entities. In No Man’s Sky, you are, in so many ways, alone.
I believe that’s what I like about it most. No Man’s Sky is a game where you make your own experience. It allows you the gift of seeing what’s out there, on your own time, at your own speed. Most of us will never go to outer space. We’ll never know what, if anything, may be out there. No Man’s Sky has imagined up an entire galaxy to head out and explore. And much like the one we actually inhabit, we’ll never see it all.
Like the music of Pink Floyd, there are layers and layers to No Man’s Sky. I know I’ll never uncover or understand all of them. I don’t think anybody will. I’ll never build the perfect micro-tool or design the optimal craft. But I love that there’s a galaxy in front of me, ready for me to explore, and where the possibilities appear to be virtually endless.