When I was a kid, I used to love gazing up at the stars and dreaming of what mysteries and surprises lay dormant in the endless black. Before bed I used to slip off to my windowsill, when I was sure my family were entering their slumber, and marvel at the stars. The feeling of insignificance within the scale of the galaxy was both humbling and disconcerting, but exciting nonetheless.
Now that NASA – the once heroes of Western space adventures – have slipped from grace in both the eyes of the people and the government, and entry to the space race has fallen to the highest bidders, it feels as if the sense of enjoyment we got from looking up has dissipated. Now we receive the same levels of excitement from glaring into the black voids of our smartdevices.
But the fuss surrounding No Man's Sky's impending release has me hopeful for a renewed thirst for space travel and all of the excitement found whilst journeying into and attempting to survive the harsh realities of the unknown. Because, although No Man's Sky may not be infinite, the universe itself is infinitely interesting.
No Man's Sky – A Cultural Revolution?
The game and its procedurally generated alchemy is attempting to replicate a tiny part of the supermassive nature of the universe and its smattering of galaxies. With an obscene amount of worlds to visit – 18 quintillion to be exact – it's not hard to fathom the game having a similar affect to when Carl Sagan blew minds back in 1990 when he dutifully presided over Voyager 1's efforts to send us a glimpse of our pale blue dot from six billion kilometers away.
It's already had the desired effect on me! I'm busy sat here grinding my teeth, waiting anxiously for No Man's Sky to dock with my postbox. But some people are beginning to believe the game may have a greater effect than making palms sweaty with anticipation. Some people are beginning to believe the title may get gamers, especially younger gamers, peering up beyond the horizon once more.
Recently Vice discussed with former NASA consultant and aviation specialist Justin Julian the social implications No Man's Sky could have on the populous that will be eagerly ingesting its pulpy sci-fi charms.
Julian reckons that a game of the staggering scope of NMS could stir future astrophysicists and astrologists into actively pursuing a renewed interest in space and reigniting the belief that we should actually be venturing out into the stars in order to *clears throat* boldly go where no man has gone before.
"It doesn't matter what the medium is, all it takes is one person seeing it and getting interested enough to ignite that spark, and then we've got our next big breakthrough. This game could push someone where we need them, to advance our species."
To advance our species. Could a video game actually have the potential to push someone into thinking so far outside the box, they revolutionize our entire species?
"Every day [at NASA] I passed these words on the way to my desk, 'To Inspire the Next Generation.' I really think this game has the potential to do that."
Bold words from one of the greatest minds in the Western hemisphere.
But how feasible would it be to navigate our ways through deep space with our current technologies? With the fantastical spacecraft of the game already engrained in gamers' consciousnesses and our inability to send humans further than the moon, will the next huge advancement in space travel come long into our, well my, late adulthood?
"Y'know, we're actually so close to it. There are way too many variables to know fully what deep space travel will be like, but NASA currently plans to put people on Mars.
That's the next step, and there is an honest strive for it, with the same passion that was there when we put a man on the moon."
And with the realization that deep space travel may actually be upon us sooner than we think, the findings could too revolutionize our consumption of natural resources. And, maybe, generally improve niceties between nations:
"A great part of this game is sharing resources with other players. Getting things to other people that they don't have in their native systems is so important to understanding the vastness of the universe, the scale of it.
When we start looking at other places in real life, we may find new resources that can substitute and be better than our own, and that's essential for our survival and growth."
All of this besides being fun and gripping enough to keep gamers adding even more miles to their intergalactic carbon footprints? That's a lot of pressure lying on No Man's Sky's constantly evolving shoulders, but will it be able to thrive amidst the immeasurable heat Planet Expectations is generating?
"I hope it engages the players' imaginations, and I hope it engages mine as well. I want people to play this game and then think about flight school or taking astronomy classes.
Then maybe they'll go even further than we can think of going now. This game really could give us the next big innovator."
Yeah, man. At least one new innovator born out of the wonder of No Man's Sky's stardust would be a monumental step for the future of mankind. And remember, it's only a video game. This is how far we've come already.