Unravelling Narratives of Empire in No Man’s Sky

Kate Euphemia Clark


Many scholars have looked at how players engage with games of Empire in ways that both reproduce and subvert capitalist-colonial narratives of resource accumulation, war, and conquest. This article examines the 2016 release of No Man’s Sky, and how the colonial conquest and resource gathering that are central to the gameplay quickly unravelled as players spent time with the game. Firstly, this article will explore how the release of No Man’s Sky initially replicated the myth of terra nullius, as well as an understanding of the environment as resources-in-waiting. This is contrasted with the fact that No Man’s Sky did not replicate the traditional triple-A structure of action, which leads the player to a playthrough that focuses on ‘bearing witness’ to the environment, rather than harvesting its resources to strengthen the player-character and progress through the game. However, major updates to No Man’s Sky fundamentally changed the player’s relationship to the game-world, further obscuring many of the moments of speculation that the initial release provided. This analysis demonstrates how games of Empire can create affective experiences that can inadvertently challenge the very narratives that they are enmeshed in. These moments are fleeting but provide a valuable insight into the role that games play in the crises of the Anthropocene.

Słowa kluczowe: affect, Empire, speculative play, video games, No Man’s Sky

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