For better or for worse, No Man’s Sky will be one of the most divisive games of this year. A look at early reviews shows some lofty praise, like this twinfinite review saying the game is “no doubt a feat in magnificent game development”, followed by a lot criticism calling it “boring.” No Man’s Sky doesn’t have to be liked by every journalist. After all, the beauty of critical analysis is that different people can reach different conclusions, but the way that critics and laymen are choosing to attack No Man’s Sky displays many of the problems that plague gaming criticism and journalism, specifically hype and anti-hype, price obsession, and the amount of “time” that one can spend in a game as indicators of “quality”. The problem with putting the focus on these shallow characteristics of a game is that it doesn’t reveal to us anything about the game itself, only the situation surrounding the game.
The hype around No Man’s Sky has been tremendous, and so has the backlash. A quick read of many popular gaming journalism sites has reviewers commenting at length about the hype surrounding No Man’s Sky and whether or not the game “lives up to it”. Without a doubt, many people were excited for No Man’s Sky. They imagined themselves exploring a vast and wild universe where they would never see the same thing twice. They envisioned themselves as explorers of the cosmos. The game has clearly disappointed some people, and many reviewers and commentators aren’t talking about the game in front of them, but rather the ghost of the game that they desired.