Greatness almost always starts with an idea. An original thought that is the seed that one hopes will grow and maybe one day, flourish into something real. The world is full of bean counters and poets. All either trying to make their mark in this world or trying to stay as unnoticed as possible. Unsurprising that there are no hybrids in those two groups, and for good reason. You cannot expect to be recognized for greatness with a cavalier attitude toward doing great things. “Here’s to the crazy ones…” as Steve Jobs once told us. If you haven’t seen the now famous ad from Apple then I suggest you look it up.The video game industry is one of the most challenging in the world. It is a business. Lest we forget that fact when reviewing the games we play. However it is also one of the most spectacular forms of creative expression, rivalling only the motion picture industry in depth and scale. There is a polarity and polarization to making video games that make money. There are trends, and formulas that continue to produce forecasted results based on market research. There are executives, studios, careers, workers and jobs to be won and lost. There is also art. The imagination that produces entire realities for us to play an active part of an epic story. There are dragons to slay, mobsters to gun down and spaceships to pilot. All of these things are in a flux that is pulling and twisting that somehow end up on your console or PC after months, or even years of tireless work and sacrifice. So to be the one independent pioneer that steps out into the frontier and says, “Fuck it, I’m going my own way. Who’s with me?”, is one of the crazy ones indeed.
Sean Murray is crazy, and that’s just fine.
No Man’s Sky may have some familiar mechanics, but make no mistake, Hello Games has been brave enough to create something that we haven’t played before. Something they can only hope we will like and something more than the powers that be can define at a marketing level. The mystique around No Man’s Sky has been kept as close to the chests of the developers as they can possibly get away with. Certainly on a daily basis, Sean and crew must get unyielding requests to show aspects and content that have since been kept hidden. If, for example, I were to look at your typical RPG and watch a video about said game, showing numerous towns and merchants who sell weapons and magical items for gold, I’d think nothing of it and have expected such elements from a game of this type. However when Sean demoed No Man’s Sky again showing an NPC for the first time, the gaming internet nearly exploded. This is what managing expectations can do for a product. This is taking a path less traveled and putting your hands over your ears to those begging you to reveal every detail of your new game. “How will people know if they want to play your game if they don’t know everything about it?”, I’m sure Sean Murray has heard ivy league marketer’s asking as they read from the marketing playbook verbatim.
Make an omelet, break some eggs.
Expectation is really where we are at now. The opus of Hello Games is nearly ours to experience. With the winding down of the hype and PR, we are left with just a month or so to wait. We are booking a day off from work, getting things done that may interfere with launch day, and we are pacing in our heads impatiently to boot up No Man’s Sky for the first time. Where will we spawn first? What planet will we land on? What will be the first creature we name? Sean Murray and Hello Games have broken the rules for you to be asking these questions. They have stood out and made something we cannot put into a bucket. It literally defies classification. It deserves our applause if nothing else and for that rule breaking alone. So if you find yourself sitting in front of your television or at your desk at home on June 21st, 2016, I have a request I’d like to make of you all. Play the game that you haven’t played before. Enjoy it as an experiment without comparison. Loose yourself in a tribute to 1970’s science fiction as if you were appreciating your favourite song on vinyl. Forget that you love multi-player games for just a moment. Leave those expectations behind the instant you board your spaceship. Look a little deeper and feel as close to living in a pulp sci-fi fantasy as you have ever felt playing a game. For like the first time people saw Dorothy and Toto, step out from her broken house in Technicolour, or when audiences gasped as an incredibly real brachiosaurus, first thundered into frame in Jurassic Park, this moment will only happen once. Enjoy it, because once is all you are going to get.