The first time I ever played No Man’s Sky was a few weeks ago when it launched for the Xbox One with its “Next” update. Having missed out on the hype and subsequent anti-hype, I feel like I’m more unbiased than most when I say this: No Man’s Sky is boring.
The thing is, I don’t actually mind that it’s boring. In fact, I actually kind of like it.
There are certain titles that I’d categorize as Boring Games. Elite: Dangerous, Sea of Thieves, and even Minecraft fall under this category for me. This isn’t necessarily because they aren’t “fun.” Certainly, you can discover entertainment and enjoyment hidden in these titles. But they aren’t as actively engaging as, say, Rocket League or Dark Souls, or any game that constantly demands your attention, and the rewards are usually earned after long, grinding processes over the course of multiple steps.
No Man’s Sky, I’d say, fits neatly into this niche. It’s a game where you’ll spend hours pointing a green laser at a bunch of rocks to complete a mission or gather enough resources to build one part of one base that’s on one of a million planets. The funny thing is, even after you build one little bitty part of that base, the only immediate gratification and reward you’ll get from doing so is the satisfaction of having done it.
You can fly to a planet, categorize all of its plants, animals, and minerals, and only come away with a few measly bucks. You can certainly fight sentinels, the tiny robots that constantly monitor your resource gathering in order to slow you down just enough to be annoying while not being able to completely stop you. But what happens when you kill them? Maybe you get a few nanite clusters—if you remembered to pick up that particular mission.
The enjoyment you get out of Boring Games truly depends on your own imagination. Minecraft never captured my attention because I don’t have the patience to exercise my own creativity. Elite: Dangerous never captured my attention because I couldn’t stand staring at another loading screen as I hopped from galaxy to galaxy. Sea of Thieves—well, I’ve documented the myriad problems I have with that game, but its biggest problem is that the work-to-rewards ratio never struck the right balance.
For some reason, despite the fact that it can be excruciatingly boring, No Man’s Sky has captured my attention. I’ve only played 10 hours so far, and I can really only play for small chunks of time lest I fall asleep in my chair, but when I am playing I’m enjoying it. I can’t say I’m always “having fun,” but there’s a sense of mystery and intrigue to the world that propels me. There’s a serenity to flying around in space, blasting asteroids with my ship’s lasers and collecting gold, or zipping over to an alien artifact and learning the Vy’keen word for “interloper.” Plus, after regularly overwhelming my senses with competitive games, it’s nice to pause every once in a while and just drift along, exploring without any real destination.