In case some of you missed the news last week, a Reddit user daymeeughn bought a leaked copy of the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky and apparently managed to achieve the sprawling game’s win condition of reaching the center of the game’s galaxy. This feat took daymeeughn about thirty hours. It should be noted that this is the stated win condition of Hello Games, the developers of No Man’s Sky, and that thirty hours is roughly within the time frame the studio expected. There may very well be other things to do in this game. Daymeeuhn’s opinion of the game is mostly positive, which is impressive considering it cost him $1250 plus shipping on Ebay.
Can a game like No Man’s Sky be spoiled in the way other media can be spoiled?
I don’t think so. Everything we know about No Man’s Sky points to it being a massive open world game in the vein of classic games like Minecraft, Skyrim, and Fallout 3. Historically, the stories or creator-curated content of these games have been among their weaker aspects, and yet they all retain their popularity.
The simple fact is that with games like No Man’s Sky, the moment to moment interaction with the game is much more important than the story’s plot or even the total amount of time played. This is why short games like Journey and Gone Home can be just as powerful and impressive as longer games. And this is why games with practically no story at all like Hyper Light Drifter or Grow Home can be as engaging as an Uncharted game.
Video Game Spoilers: A Risk or Inevitability?
Traditional media like literature, films or TV shows rely much more heavily on the quality of their storytelling than games. This is why spoilers can be much more harmful to them. In the case of a game like No Man’s Sky, it is conceivable that some players may not engage with the story content Hello Games has made at all, except by accident. This would be analogous to watching a film with the sound off. Yet players who engage with No Man’s Sky in this way may well have just as much fun as those who blast their way towards the center of the game’s galaxy as quickly as possible.
All of this is not to say that games are immune to spoilers. This case simply illustrates one way that video games diverge from traditional forms of media to which they are too often compared. Games are a new and different thing and the time has come to stop comparing them to what has come before.
Hype vs Reality
This is also not to say that No Man’s Sky will live up to the ridiculously high expectations set before it. Only time will tell if No Man’s Sky will be the “last game I ever play” or a game so sprawling and possessed of so much content that a player can be satisfied playing only that game to the exclusion of other games. So many people in the gaming community seem to want No Man’s Sky to be that experience and it is far too soon to tell one way or another in this case.
Too soon to tell is a fair statement about a lot of the questions still surrounding No Man’s Sky. Will people get sucked into the game the way we were with Minecraft and Skyrim, and Fallout 3, or will we just skip off the game’s surface? Too soon to tell. Is thirty hours of story content enough to balance such a massive open world? Too soon to tell. Will No Man’s Sky be the “last game I ever play” that so many inexplicably want? Too soon to tell. What do you even do in No Man’s Sky? Actually, Hello Games has pretty comprehensively answered this one with the game’s trailers and people should seriously stop asking it.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately until we, as a community, have had some time to play No Man’s Sky we won’t be able to know what No Man’s Sky really is. I understand why a lot of people have hype for this game, and I have no wish to be the pooper of their party, but pre-release hype for anything is premature. It doesn’t matter if the hype originated in some marketing company or in a more grassroots manner as in this case; if you haven’t played a game it is important to reserve your opinion.
So now that it has been confirmed that the mainline story of No Man’s Sky takes around thirty hours to complete what does it mean? Well, the nature of games, and this game in particular, means that this news has less weight than people might think. This fact is one way that games are different from other forms of media but that doesn’t mean that No Man’s Sky will live up to expectations. This whole event simply reinforces the need to play a game before forming a rigid opinion.