SIM BULLY 3000, or, No Man’s Sky: Second Impressions

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The sky is the limit. And you can literally get to the sky in 30 seconds.

After over a month since its initial release I still haven’t beaten No Man’s Sky, the universe-trekking exploration game that tasks players with making their way through near infinite unique worlds, inhabited with their own unique flora and fauna.

No Man’s Sky was pretty immediately bashed for not being particularly substantive, which can be hard to argue. Despite boasting a reported 18 quintillion plus planets to explore, the things you do on whilst exploring those innumerable worlds are entirely identical from planet to planet, on top of being pretty mundane. Mine for minerals, walk to checkpoints, discover new plants and animals that will either attack or ignore you. It doesn’t take long for the onus of entertainment in No Man’s Sky to fall on the player.

Which is how I discovered that No Man’s Sky doubles as a hauntingly accurate, guilt free bullying simulation. As detailed in a previous post, I kept myself entertained for countless hours discovering one functionally-deplorable creature after another and, as is my right as No Man’s Sky’s space-faring colonialist megalomaniac, naming them whatever I want for all of eternity. Bipedal wolves with no elbows, hulking cows with gorilla arms and dainty little deer legs, running coat hangers with bird beaks, none of them fared well under my bullying gaze. Deep in their genetic roots perhaps these creatures had some primordial identity, but to me (and now to the entire universe of anyone who might ever discover them) they’re “Whoops” Said Something Omnipotent, or THX 4 PLAYING I GUESS, or Something Ugly With a Case of Something Bad.

And that’s okay, because they’re not real. I’m allowed to bully them. They aren’t gonna do anything about it.

And therein lies the aforementioned haunting accuracy of the bully simulator No Man’s Sky’s shortcomings forced me to make it.

People who aren’t currently being bullied say you’re supposed to deal with a bully like you deal with a bear attack – you just kind of ignore it and they’ll eventually stop, the idea being that a bully bullies to get a reaction. It’s a sentiment I always figured was sappy, Chicken Soup for the Soul nonsense. An old wives’ tale at best.

And then, long hours into my intergalactic reign of nominal terror, I saw a very, very dumb looking Toucan monster, went to name it and thought “eh, what’s the point?”

And I haven’t picked up No Man’s Sky since.

In the sprawling universe of No Man’s Sky bullying eventually proved to be just too much work, for pretty much zero payoff, which is pretty indicative of the game as a whole.

You mine resources and discover new locations so that you can craft and buy enough items to get to the next planet and… mine resources and discover new locations. The payoff for your efforts in No Man’s Sky is essentially an opportunity to revisit the setup. If No Man’s Sky were a joke it would be “Why did the chicken cross the road? Why did the chicken cross the road?”

I had hours and hours of fun contemplating why that chicken crossed that road, but eventually, just as all the initial reviews of No Man’s Sky that I was so intent on not taking to heart insisted, it just got old.

Maybe if I could just shout names at the screen instead of having to type them out with a PS4 controller?

As I said, I haven’t beaten No Man’s Sky yet, so consider this less a final verdict on the game than a second impression for which no follow-up is currently planned or ever intended. And what is that second impression?

No Man’s Sky is precisely as fun as being a bully.

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SIM BULLY, or, No Man’s Sky

nomanssky

Bout to straight up CLOWN some fauna and/or flora.

No Man’s Sky,  developer Hello Games’ procedurally-generated space exploration game that concocts millions of planets (complete with similarly generated plant and animal life) using deterministic algorithms, doesn’t lend itself to quick assessment. I’ve played it for longer than it takes to beat any Call of Duty game and still sense that I’m on the prologue of my adventure to the center of the universe. Though it’s thus far been dinged for its repetitive gameplay features, at this point in my playthrough I maintain that No Man’s Sky is a sight to behold, one that I’m still having a blast playing.

But it’s not the potential to explore a fraction of a reported 18 quintillion procedurally-generated planets that keeps me coming back for more. It’s the fact that No Man’s Sky is the guiltless bully simulation the world has been waiting for.

No Man’s Sky doesn’t just let you explore 18 quintillion planets and take in the exotic flora and fauna. It lets you name them. And aside from the understandable inclusion of a language filter, which has only heightened my own creativity, the sky is the limit for naming these goofy, inexplicable organisms.

In real life, if I saw some sort of gorilla/dog/deer hexaped with devil horns and a baby face I’d be frowned upon for teasing it. In No Man’s Sky I don’t only get to think it looks like God’s greatest blunder, I get to straight up name it “God’s Greatest Blunder” for all eternity, ensuring that anyone else who ever runs across it in their travels knows that of all God’s blunders this flailing, misaligned doofus is numero uno.

No Man’s Sky hasn’t just let me explore the heavens, it’s challenged me to think of as many safe-for-work synonyms for “phallic” as humanly possible. It’s taught me not to name some short, fat thing “The Very Dumbest Ottoman” unless I’m absolutely sure, because something shorter, fatter and dumber might come along the very next second.

I don’t think I’m playing No Man’s Sky right. I’ve reloaded the game because I submitted an animal’s name with a typo more often than I’ve died. The gameplay mechanic I’ve used most frequently is probably the keyboard and the gameplay mechanic I’ve used the second most frequently is the Playstation 4’s ability to take screenshots of my playthrough so that I can remember which heinous names go with which genetic disaster.

And the best part? All these dummies are fake! No harm no fowl! Bully them to your heart’s content! I know I have. Just like playing Call of Duty doesn’t make you a real soldier, giving horrendously cruel names to make believe creatures doesn’t make you a real bully.

My first impression of No Man’s Sky is that it is fun for the whole family. Just not for the reasons it was intended to be.