All Alone in “No Man’s Sky”

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“It has been said that video games are best understood by the verbs they invite. No Man’s Sky is built on four primary actions: explore, fight, trade, survive. They are familiar verbs, for players, but, couched in the near-endless variety of this playpen, they remain brightly alluring. Repetitiveness is inevitable, but, each time I punctured a new stratosphere, my store of patience and interest was renewed. But, while Sony’s marketing for the game has emphasized the promise of infinite content, its most memorable trick is to make the player feel impossibly small, lonely, and lost. No Man’s Sky does not allow for direct social interaction between players, at least for now. (The creators say this would result in too much server strain.) There are three alien races to befriend, via conversation and small acts of kindness—a gift of some iron ore, or perhaps a fragile promise to wed one of their species. But there are no cities on these planets, only a huddle of huts and a helipad, at most. There are no madding crowds, no true kinship. As the hours whirl by, a deeper question begins to form: Why am I here?” Simon Parkin has more in “All Alone in No Man’s Sky.”

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