‘No Man’s Sky’, ‘Pokemon Go’, and the Allure of the Unknown

There are things we just don't know, and that totally works.

Nicholas Bashore

Ever since I first repaired my starship and set off exploring the universe in No Man’s Sky, I’ve been driven to learn more about everything. Partly, that’s because the game itself isn’t interested in holding your hand. It’s a system you learn to respect at your own pace, for better or for worse. Kind of like Niantic’s Pokémon Go.

Much like No Man’s Sky, the appeal of Pokémon Go wasn’t just catching Pokémon out in the world, but rather that players also had to come together as a community to figure things out. The not knowing and the learning are integral parts of what makes both games work.

Nicholas Bashore

When Pokémon Go first launched, many folks immediately set their minds to understanding the mechanics behind catching, evolving, and collecting Pokémon in the game. The existence of spawn nests, the different ways we could throw a Pokéball, or even how the gym battle system worked — all were things that had to be worked out, but over time, as everyone came together and shared their knowledge, people figured them out. Sure, it broke some of the initial hype behind the release, but it also provided an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. We’d done it; we’d figured out Pokémon Go.

No Man’s Sky operates similarly by dropping players into a world where they are unaware of how everything functions and interacts. The game feeds players through a few basic mechanics like how to power up ship thrusters and keep the exosuit’s life support system online. From there we branched outward towards the galaxy, looking at how intergalactic trade worked and learning the language of alien life forms who inhabited the galaxy around us so that we could communicate with them. Slowly — very slowly — we began to figure out how No Man’s Sky worked, and now those puzzle pieces have started to align.

There’s no questioning the massive scale behind the game, which is filled with tons of alien languages that players have to learn word by word and quintillions of planets the community to discover and catalog. But there’s still more big questions to answer, and it’s entirely possible that there are Easter eggs out there that will remain undiscovered. Currently hundreds of us are digging deeper in a million different ways, and what’s most exciting is that we don’t know which will yield results — if any.

Nicholas Bashore

This sort of mechanic is rare in video games these days. Too often you can dig your way through online blog posts or game guides that you can purchase with the game and discover everything there is to know within a few hours. (Even with the online guides, there’s still so much out there that we just don’t know for both games.) Honestly, this takes away from the immense sense of discovery that so many developers and games try to put across. That said, the true sense of discovery certainly can’t possibly last forever — even though No Mans Sky is working to keep it alive as long as it can.

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