I want to *escape* my loneliness, not be smothered by it.
— Jeremy Voss (@CouchShouts) August 21, 2016
The new Deus Ex comes out this week and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve looked forward to having something new to play in a really long time, even if it’s something I’m only marginally interested in as that new Deus Ex game. No Man’s Sky is starting to break me down.
I don’t talk about myself much in this blog. I mean, not really. I write in the first person nearly exclusively and the word “I” shows up at least a dozen times in every entry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m speaking my innermost thoughts and feelings. I write here because I like talking about games and I don’t really know that many people that I can talk about them with outside of one or two close friends.
Well, let me rephrase that, since I’m apparently in the mood for being brutally honest: I have, one way or the other, removed myself from the possibility of having those conversations in real life and online. It’s one thing to have social anxiety (which I do, and which I take medication for, though I’m still not quite where I want to be); it’s quite another when that anxiety of human interaction starts to bleed into my internet life (which is starting to happen more and more often). And. as I mentioned last week, my availability to be present on the internet is now, due to forces far beyond my control, dramatically lower than it’s been in maybe 20 years.*
To put it another way: I’m 40 years old and I feel like I’ve forgotten how to talk to people. Even with my friends, I feel like I can’t put words together. Or I’ll say something and it totally comes out wrong. Or I’ll try to reach out to someone that I thought I was friends with and I get total silence in return, and while total silence can be interpreted in any number of ways, I almost always tend to lean towards the most depressing interpretation.
I bring this up because, as I said at the top – I don’t think I can play No Man’s Sky any more. I don’t care about reaching the “end”, as it were, if it means I’m simply continuing to do the same 5-6 actions I am currently doing for another 10-20 hours. The game is becoming heartbreaking in its soul-crushing loneliness. And it’s not just that my interactions with the game’s NPCs are meaningless.
My biggest question with respect to NMS after all this time is: why? Why is this universe so absurdly big? What do we as players get out of this incomprehensible vastness that we couldn’t have gotten out of a more hand-crafted experience?
Furthermore – why do we have to be online, if we can’t interact with each other? Last night I found myself on someone else’s path, which may or may not mean I’m starting to get close to the center; I presume that if we all started at the same distance from the center, eventually we’d have to cross paths. But even though someone else was there before me, it’s not like there was any connection made. I saw no traces of this random person (they didn’t re-name the galaxy or land on any planets) and it’s doubtful that I ever would. I initially thought it would be neat to be able to cross paths like this, but it’s utterly meaningless in a game where one could stay on the same planet for 20 hours without needing to move on.
I find myself sinking into a depressive mood as my time in the game progresses. I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore. The vastness of the universe is no longer awe-inspiring, but is instead becoming oppressive and intimidating. I land on a planet, destroy its resources, take photos (that nobody will ever see) of animals (that nobody will ever see) to gain a miniscule amount of currency that can’t begin to help me afford the things I’d want to buy. I see no other traces of anyone or anything beyond the same 5 or 6 pre-fab outposts that I see on every other planet.
I don’t know what awaits me at the center of the galaxy, but at this point I’d settle for a hug.
And so this is, probably, the point where I should say goodbye to this game. Maybe I’ll pick it back up after a few content patches arrive; or maybe I’ll just let it be.
[There’s been quite a lot of good writing about NMS, much of which has been curated here. I’d particularly like to single out Brendan Keogh’s piece, which I thought was fantastic.]
* Short of getting a new job, and I’m not going to start looking for a new job just so that I can screw around on Facebook during idle hours.
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