No Man's Sky Just Broke My Heart

Since its debut at VGX 2013 gamers and journalists alike have been watching Hello Games' space exploration title, No Man's Sky very closely. Recent news has given me one very important reason to look the other way.

Like many Kotaku readers, I've been following Tina's coverage of No Man's Sky intently, excitedly absorbing details about the various tools used in development, just how it's possible to generate these worlds that look too good to be randomly generated and the game's mechanics. The game's most recent coverage, however, left me feeling dejected.

I read those two articles and was excited to share the details with my dad until I read this:

We can try to fly to the same place and if we do we'll see the same things and we can make certain drops and do interactions between each other. But we're not all flying to one planet and then having a run around together.

That phrase spelled the end of my dreams about No Man's Sky. We won't be flying together, discovering the universe as we go. We don't get to work together to take down our foes, or discover new species. Reading that isn't the direction the game is going made me feel something a sadness that's difficult to describe.


No Man's Sky Just Broke My Heart

When I was nine, I met my stepdad. My mom had just gotten out of a bad situation and had left me with my father for the time being. The first time he greeted me, he did so by asking my mom to give me a Genesis game, Super Monaco GP. I was elated thinking my new stepdad might not be so bad, that he and I could bond over a shared love of video games.

Over the years he and I learned a great deal about each other. He would ask me about the games I played and what I liked, seeming genuinely interested. You see, we never played games together. He was more of a PC gamer and I, as a child, stuck exclusively to my consoles. Our gaming worlds seldom overlapped, save for a few occasions when he would steal my Super Nintendo to go play Street Fighter II or Starfox for a few days.

I got to know more about his hobbies as well, of course. Dad (I could no longer think of him as anything but) loves sci-fi. In our home, he had a massive bookshelf lined with titles from great authors of the genre like Heinlein and Asimov. I didn't care much for the books, but I always found their artwork to be calming and somewhat serene. I would pull a book from the shelf as I sat on the floor in the room he and my mom shared and he would try his best to interest me in reading it. It never worked.

I could stare at the covers for days, but didn't care much for the contents within; it just wasn't my thing I guess. As I grew older, my bond with my dad grew in strength, as most normal father-son bonds do. Just as life has a way of doing, however, my dad and I drifted apart. I moved out, went to school, got married and had a kid—normal adult stuff.

I would call home from time to time and talk to my dad, telling him all about my goings-on and asking him about his. We would regularly try to convince one another to try out whatever the latest game we were playing was and share opinions on them. We tried Diablo III and EVE. He loved them, but I wasn't a fan. I got him to try Phantasy Star Online 2, but it was "too anime" for his tastes.

No Man's Sky Just Broke My Heart

Then came VGX 2013 and the reveal of No Man's Sky. The next day I sent my dad the trailer. I called home that same evening, "Dad, did you see the email I sent you about that new game?", I asked excitedly. He checked with me waiting on the other end of the line. "That's really cool looking, son!", he said with an unusual amount of excitement in his voice. He asked me when it's coming out, what platforms it's on, whether he'd need to upgrade his PC to play it.

At the time, I felt he was humoring me. It's no secret to him I want to find a game to play with him, after all. We didn't speak much about it after that, and I forgot about it.

I visited my parents a few months ago, and while I was out with my dad having a beer, he flashed a cheesy grin as I've known to before he makes some off-the-wall suggestion, he asks, "Want to go to Best Buy?". I laugh and remind him we'll get in trouble with mom for staying out too long, and, in typical fashion, agree. When we arrive at the store, I decide to ask him why we're even there in the first place, "To get my computer ready for that space game, what was it, No Man's Sky?", he said, grinning as he asked me questions about SSDs, graphics cards and headsets.

He wasn't just humoring me, he was genuinely excited for this game we hadn't talked about in months. I reminded him we had no idea when this game would even release, or what it would require, but it had become more than that for us.

No Man's Sky became the thing my dad and I talked about most. About lush, colorful worlds, exploring the universe together, the thrill of having to find each other in the vastness of space, and of course, throwing down against anyone in our way.

No Man's Sky Just Broke My Heart

We chatted with an excitement I can say I've never experienced before about No Man's Sky's showing at E3 2014, about how we can't wait to play this game, about how fun it'll be to finally get our hands on it.

Ultimately though, none of the scenarios we chatted about will happen. We'll be disconnected. Traveling thorugh a lonely universe where the only trace of our existence is an afterimage, a ghost from travels past.

It's not Hello Games' fault for not creating a game that caters solely to me and my desire to connect with my dad. It's my fault for letting my excitement get out of hand and turn into something it shouldn't have. That doesn't make it any less saddening, and somewhat painful though.

No Man's Sky is still shaping up to be an amazing game. It's still one of the prettiest games out there, and definitely my winner of E3. It's all those things, even without the emotional bond I've developed around it over the last few months.

For me, that was the most important part about this game. The potential that I saw in it. The potential to connect with someone meaningful to me in a meaningful way. I'll still play No Man's Sky when it releases. I'll probably like it, too. Maybe I'll even run into the ghost of my dad in the form of a planet discovered, but my heart will sink just as much as it rises when I do.