No Man's Sky

I played a pretty decent amount of No Man’s Sky when it first launched. I’d estimate that I put in 20 hours or so before I felt I had my fill. When the first update (called Foundation) was announced, I figured I’d put the game down and pick it back up again after some of the early issues were addressed.

I came back after the kinks in the Atlas Rises update had been smoothed out, investing perhaps another 50 hours before the Next update came out and really sank its talons in me. With No Man’s Sky Next, my playtime on my main character approached 300 hours, and I have a secondary character with 70+ hours on it from the early days of Next.

I thought the Beyond update was going to really be my ticket, a gateway to another 200 hours of No Man’s Sky time. But as it turns out, I felt like I was burning out on the game a bit by that point (which might have been partially due to a Permadeath run in which I made it to the galaxy’s center for the first time in my No Man’s Sky history). I bounced off almost immediately after the Beyond update, and I only checked in occasionally for the next couple years.

The details I’ve laid out here are probably not that important, but I bring them up to emphasize the fact that I’ve played tons of No Man’s Sky (more than 450 hours at this point), but until very recently, I hadn’t played much after the Beyond update introduced us to the Nexus.

The Nexus, for the unfamiliar, is this:

No Man's Sky

It’s a player hub that can be warped to from a Space Anomaly (which can be summoned virtually anywhere in space), and it serves as both a marketplace and a meeting point for travelers in No Man’s Sky‘s enormous universe.

With the Expeditions update (which is very, very good), I decided to finally jump back into the game, and I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. I think it’s fair to say that I’m hooked again.

However, in the two-plus years that I’ve been mostly absent, the Nexus has become a pretty important location in No Man’s Sky. I actually find myself visiting it fairly regularly. But my visits can get a bit… weird.

In the Nexus, random players can invite you to their session, and they can also gift you items. When someone tries to invite you to their session, a notification will pop up. When someone gifts anyone else an item, text will appear on the side of your screen. Which means you can get a pretty good idea of what people are like really quickly — the Nexus wears its current “mood” on its sleeve.

Sometimes, the vibe is pretty chill.

No Man's Sky

Yeah, that person’s name totally checks out.

Other times, you don’t know what to make of the current mood.

No Man's Sky

Holy crap, that name checks out too.

Sometimes, things can even be a little, well, inappropriate.

No Man's Sky

Okay, so what’s going on here? Seriously, what’s up with this? The internet is no mystery to me, and I’m perfectly aware of the way people act while online. I’ve been writing about video games for a decade now, I run into some pretty odd folks, whether that be in comments sections or online game lobbies. But with No Man’s Sky, the people I come across in the Nexus feel like parodies of internet people. This is how you would expect internet personas to act in, say, Rick and Morty or something.

Are any of these folks even real? Has Hello Games managed to create some sort of algorithm that creates fake players who act in perfect synchronization with the behavior implied by their usernames? I can see how someone might create a username and then decide to live out that name to its fullest potential. But how is it possible that this has become so common in one very specific portion of this massive game?

It’s possible that I’ve fallen victim to the Texas sharpshooter fallacy here, acknowledging the hits while ignoring the vastly overwhelming quantity of misses. Maybe this behavior is quite a bit less common than I’m making it out to be. Maybe I just managed to find some of the delightfully strangest people in the No Man’s Sky community.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve grown quite fond of checking in with the Nexus and all of the oddity it provides — when it doesn’t cause the game to crash entirely, that is.

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