Ever since I was a little kid wistfully looking up at the stars, I've always longed for a chance of going up there myself to see the universe a bit closer than I can from down here. Since a career as a scientist is just not in the cards for me and I don't really want to set foot aboard one of NASA's vomit comets, video games will have to do until commercial spaceflight is possible and affordable. And I gotta say that there is more than enough to play and look forward to for this amateur space cadet.
With technology available to game developers improving dramatically, the possibility for gamified spacetravel draws ever nearer. I recently bought myself a copy of Elite: Dangerous (jokingly known as “Euro Truck Sim in Space” by the community), and while the harsh reality of the universe's emptiness hit me harder than it should for something that is pretty damn obvious, I can't help but come back to it and explore a life-sized model of our galaxy.
The game's pace lends itself for some extended sight-seeing while ferrying loot from station to station, and while my bank account in-game is at a critically low level and my loan is making it harder and harder to dig myself ot of debt, my cartography journal is bursting at the seams with never-before-discovered starsystems and planets. There's something poetic about flying past an Earth-like planet with an entire universe surrounding me. The experience is strangely cathartic, too, and I found myself picking up odd jobs that require me to travel dozens of lightyears away to complete, just so I could see what I would bump into. The game's structure is very reminiscent of another game I'm very much looking forward to so I've been treating Elite: Dangerous as a training grounds for that other game. That game is called No Man's Sky, and it might be the only reason to hold onto my PS4 for now.
No Man's Sky is an odd beast that drew me in with the promise of an enormously vast galaxy filled to the brim with strange planets, minerals, and wildlife. What's more is that the game is entirely randomly generated so no one, not even the developer, can predict what you may find when you log in to the game world.
I like exploring. When I play open world games I like to turn off the HUD and just walk around while I'm taking in the scenery. It's easy to sometimes forget the little details when you're chipping away at the game's storyline, which means that you inherently miss out on a lot of stuff in areas you don't really need to go to. An entire game that removes most of these things in favor of just pure exploration and trading mixed with some light space combat just sounds like a very refreshing and different experience than I, personally, am used to. No Man's Sky's size will of course mean that there will be a lot of empty space that has very little content in it, but that is to be expected of a space game. To be fair, I don't even know how long a game like that will manage to hold my attention or if it's fun to play in the first place, but if it's anything like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen then I think I'll be fine for quite some time to come.
And then there's the behemoth under the space games: EVE Online. I have tinkered with that game in the past, and while it never really clicked for me due to its steep learning curve (and my short attention span), I have always appreciated the stories that come out of that game. In my mind, EVE Online is the perfect example of what is possible when you let hundreds of thousands of players loose in a galaxy with only their ships and their wits to make a name for themselves. That game gets more complex and more interesting with every big update, and the stories that come out of that world and its community are sometimes better than the plot of a popular TV show or movie franchise. I encourage you to read a couple of them, since they're great fun and sometimes make you forget that this is something that happened in a video game, as opposed to real life.
These are just a few examples. Honorable mentions are also Space Engineers, Everspace, X-Rebirth and the original space game Elite game, which paved the way for all of this. I am just so excited by all the possibilities of the new generation of consoles, and the forever evolving possibilities of games on the PC platform. With the resurgence of VR gaming being the trend right now, maybe my dreams of finding a home amongst the stars might be closer to being fulfilled than it ever was, and all from the comfort of my own home. Can't imagine it getting better than that.