Kristin is 32 years old and heard about a new game called Pokemon Go the day it was released for her iPhone. That night, she created her character, learned the basics of the game, and then caught her first Pokemon, a Squirtle, before she went to bed. The next morning, she caught some more while out on a walk and had a blast before going to work. As the day wore on, all she could think about was catching more Pokemon and leveling up her character. That evening, she grabbed some Chipotle for dinner and went to a nearby park. There, DOZENS of other players were congregating, walking around, and battling at the local gym. She’d never seen her park look so active before. Not even remotely close.
Two months later, and Kristin still spends a few hours each day driving to nearby (and not so nearby) hotspots to play. She has 100 unique Pokemon and her appetite to find and hatch the last 51 she needs is bordering on insatiable. She loves the game! She plays it during morning walks (and finds she’s walking more miles now because of it), she plays it on her lunch break, and she’s even a little embarrassed to admit she plays it a little in her car when she really shouldn’t be!
She runs her phone’s battery dry before the end of each day and now makes an effort to keep it plugged in. She’s bought a backup battery to satisfy her habit while out and about. She can’t stop thinking about and playing the game…and she’s among the tens of millions of Pokemon Go players who feel the exact same way.
Last week, No Man’s Sky was released to a lot of hype and very patient gamers. Featuring an open world boasting “quintillions of planets,” the game puts players in a ship with the ability to fly between planets to discover randomized terrain, animals species, and resources. Their mission is to collect elements, name the new animals they see, and upgrade their ship as much as they can.
Websites such as Polygon and IGN have followed up on the launch by posting articles and videos of their discoveries in the game. Ways to do things. How to play. Much of this is similar to how Pokemon Go has been covered, too. Almost exactly.
Noticeably, there’s one element missing. Not many people seem to be having a whole lot of fun. There’s a lot of coverage being put into what people have found and showing screenshots of the planets they’ve seen, but that’s all. At one point, two Twitch streamers were super excited to meet each other on a common planet (something that’s supposed to be super rare), but walked away disappointed because multiplayer isn’t apparently actually real. Here are some comments about the game I’ve seen:
They have created this HUGE world with not much to do in it which is really a waste of real estate. – Wolfenstein51
Referring, of course, to the huuuuuge world that is more about sheer space than functionality.
I’m enjoying the game right now even if I think it’s a little repetitive. But that’s not a real problem, this game and the technology they created to construct such a universe, deserve much more than a hundred of zeros here. – arkien
This player seems to be somewhat bored and distracted by what other people are saying about the game. Finally:
I honestly think the people here whom are giving this game low ratings just had unreasonable expectations of it. No, you can’t build space stations or create civilizations. No, you can’t enlist in the space army. Don’t expect a singleplayer story either. Multiplayer seems to be absent too. Like I said, No Man’s Sky is all about exploration. It has some survival elements, but the game isn’t very challenging. – TotallyAverage
This last reviewer hits on the irony of these three comments: they were all among the positive reviews. In this case, a positive review about a game with not much to do, no endearing single- or multi-player experience, and nothing at all difficult to do. The Metacritic user score is a dizzying 4.9/10. It seems to me that a lot of people want to like this game, but are having trouble matching their real opinions with what they want them to be. Yet…
Here’s the kicker. Let’s compare the summary paragraphs of each game. First, No Man’s Sky:
No Man’s Sky is immediately a massive game with impressive seamless transitions from ground to space, and it will entertain your inner collector for a while. The more you get to know it, the more you recognize its faults, and it’s easy to fall so deep into the act of exploring and trading that your focus narrows to those aspects alone. If, however, you consider everything it has to offer and listen to what Atlas has to say, No Man’s Sky becomes more than a collection of slightly different worlds in a seemingly never-ending galaxy–it becomes an examination of the meaning of life in a way that’s more valuable than all the gold or starships in its virtual galaxy.
I’ve seen a few people talk about how No Man’s Sky causes you to reflect on your size in the world. That’s cool. It also sounds like rubbish. Nowhere in this review does it suggest any kind of fun to be had in the game. I highly doubt gamers play games to examine the meaning of life…ya know?
Here’s the summary paragraph of Pokemon Go:
If Pokemon Go’s initial public reception is anything to go by, its ability to draw players from multiple generations and varied gaming backgrounds together is a game worthy of attention. When it works, Pokemon Go feels like a natural evolution for the series, very much a product of the times without making the mainline series obsolete. Its…high battery consumption [does] not outweigh the old-but-new thrill of capturing Pikachu at a local park or vanquishing a Snorlax while conquering a gym.
It talks of thrills and a game that has become so big that you can’t walk anywhere without seeing obsessed players also playing the game. Yet, it scores the same as No Man’s Sky, a game I sense will come and go by August’s end.
It’s 2016. I know the top gaming consoles take things much more seriously than we did in the past. I understand No Man’s Sky offers a technical feast when it comes to graphics, life simulation, and seamless planetary flight. However, Pokemon Go has created an experience where, for literally the first time in my life, I’m surrounded by people playing the same game as me. I see kids, teens, adults, and even middle-aged parents playing with their own kids. (Sometimes to the exclusion of their kids!) I have conversations with perfect strangers about the Pokemon I’ve seen in the area. We’ve dubbed nearby Lakewood Commons as “Squirtle Country” as they can be found all over the place there. Fighting in gyms brings out a competitive nature. In every facet of popular culture, Pokemon Go is a topic: late-night talk shows, talk radio, newspaper articles, the local news, coffee shops, it’s everywhere…
Pokemon Go players are not only playing for hours each day, they have been doing so for 2 months straight…and seemingly will for many more! It’s made $200 million dollars via in-app purchases in this time…and the game itself is FREE! So, why on earth, do these two games get equal reviews?
Simple: fun no long matters when it comes to game reviews anymore.
And that’s absolutely depressing.