Thanks to a thought-provoking email from my friend and colleague Florence Smith Nicholls, I wanted to explore the ideas of mapping and colonialism in No Man’s Sky, something I had neglected to consider when conducting the Legacy Hub Archaeological Project for my PhD case study. The idea of colonialism in No Man’s Sky came up when I attended the Decolonize Mars unconference and met Tahir Hemphill, the Chair of Education for the Library of Congress. When I told him about the game and what the archaeologists were doing there, he wasn’t concerned with what the archaeologists were up to, but rather what the player-community was doing based on the game’s existing mechanics. His main issue was the fact that players could rename everything: systems, planets, animals, plants, points-of-interest, and that this would overwrite the indigenous names assigned by the game’s procedural algorithm. It seemed that players were encouraged by the developer, Hello Games, to adopt a colonialist attitude towards space exploration.
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