No Man’s Sky is officially out in just a few hours. That means we’re almost done with people writing around No Man’s Sky and not about the game itself. Soon message boards and outlets that write about games won’t be weighed down with more posts and pieces about the game’s hype, or its mysteries, or how review copies weren’t sent to press in advance. No more articles about how some outlets and players streamed the game after buying copies from stores willing to break the street date, and about how much the first day patch might change whatever aspects disappointed whoever watched those streams. We just have to get through one last piece, this little number I’m writing right now, and the most tiresome story in games will finally be behind us.
From the first trailer that announced the game in 2013, No Man’s Sky has held an unusual power over much of the gaming press and a certain segment of the gaming audience. Perhaps because that initial footage revealed so little about the game, while promising so much, expectations rapidly grew almost as large as the universe the designers said the game would let you explore. Even in the hype-fueled world of videogames, the reaction to No Man’s Sky has been surprisingly emphatic, with a passionate fan base obsessing over every drop of information that has trickled its way. It’s turned what at first glance appeared to be a fairly niche game into perhaps the most anticipated release of the year, and thus one of the most thoroughly written about.
That passion has also magnified every minor detail of the game’s development into debate points to be hotly contested and surgically picked apart by anybody with the urge and the time. Relatively typical and insignificant development hiccups have dominated message boards and bubbled up into hot takes from fan blogs and pro sites alike. The irregular doling out of information, coupled with E3 appearances in 2014 and 2015 that didn’t include demos for most press, only inspired more conjecture, among both fans and journalists. Amid these elevated hype levels, and with the original release date only a few weeks away, a recent two month delay led to threats against the designers and the journalist who first reported it, which led to countless more editorials, essays and message board threads. Hype and think piece gorged upon each other, an unprecedented ouroboros of bluster and assumption.
Over the last few years, thousands upon thousands of often contentious words have been spilt about a game that few have played. Almost none of the people writing these words have had the knowledge or first-hand experience necessary to give any insight into the game. Blather has always been a part of journalism, and is the hallmark of the opinion page, but it’s hard to think of any game or movie or book that’s seen this magnitude of prerelease discussion, with this degree of weightlessness.
Obviously outlets try to publish what people want to read. July 2016 was the biggest traffic month in history throughout the game journalism industry due to blanket coverage of one single game. The Pokémon Go gold rush has probably inspired more words in a month than No Man’s Sky has in 32, but that’s not nearly as galling because those are mostly stories of the impact that game has had in the world, with real people talking about their actual first-hand experiences. Until No Man’s Sky is actually out, the vast majority of the pieces about it haven’t been grounded in any kind of solid earth.
I’m not trying to impugn anybody specific here. Pretty much all sites, magazines, message boards and forums are complicit. We’ve run a few No Man’s Sky pieces here, too. I’m just pointing out that the amount of uninformed, fundamentally uninteresting conversation around this game has been a boring burden for over two and a half years now, one that’s overwhelmed the actual game itself, and mercifully it’s about to end. Hopefully people write about what they actually do in the game as much as they’ve written about what they might be able to do, or when they’ll be able to do it, or what they’ll do if they can’t do it soon. Maybe then we’ll forget about the tiresome dialogue that has come to define No Man’s Sky.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.