I spend a lot, like *a lot*, of time in games not so much idling in the videogame sense but being idle within the videogame world. I’m present, not away from the keyboard or controller, I’m doing something but in videogame terms it’s not a productive something.
In the first Destiny I would hop around the tower, leaping into plant pots, sitting down and spinning the camera around. I’d nip onto planets ostensibly to do patrols but often, just finding a nice spot to watch the action unfold. My favourite spot used to be on top of a cliff on Mars, just above a battleground where Vex and Cabal would fight each other. Or, if I felt a bit fruity, climbing atop a platform on the Dreadnought bouncing about, looking at the chaos unfolding below.
In Destiny 2, I’ll spend ages and ages meandering around the new tower (the farm seems like a long time ago now). Bungie have crafted an incredible space, full of nooks and crannies. It’d be rude not to have a look around.
Due to the way other characters are dotted around the map, a lot of areas are bustling, but also plenty aren’t. There’s no videogame reason for me to be meandering around the scaffolding that surrounds the tower but, bluntly, I just like looking around the place so why not?
In No Man’s Sky, I’ll zip around the nexus watching the pretty colours of my jetpack trail fade away. I’ll talk to characters who’ll just shrug me off because their utility in game has long passed. It’s almost like I’m checking in on them to make sure they’re okay. I’m sometimes sad that I can’t visit Artemis, I wonder how they’re getting on in their own simulation. It would be nice to be able to say hello sometime.
No Man’s Sky, like Proteus before it, is a wonderful game to just be in. There’s the odd planet where I’ll get no peace, either storms will tear at my life support or super angry robots will harass me for the crime of possibly disturbing a tiny rock on their oh so perfect planet. Mainly though? Mainly it’s easy for me to find my own peace on a virtual alien world inside No Man’s Sky.
Maybe it’s sitting watching the wildlife bustle around me, maybe it’s visiting a space coach station and watching traders come and go in their spaceships, idly scanning their spaceships in the hope that perhaps one might be the S class design I desire and so, be able to make an offer to buy it. Livens things up a bit sometimes, you know?
Sometimes, it’s flying low in my spaceship. Point it in the direction I fancy heading off in and, well, nothing else. The whole point is nothing else. I’m sitting at home, listening to music! Why not do that and soak up the sights of an alien world?
If I ever fancy something vaguely productive, I’ve got ten storage crates on an enormous capital ship. They could always do with a bit of a tidy. A little bit of a sorting out, as a treat.
Any game that leaves me alone to just walk around, jump around, fly around, tidy an inventory up or something without bothering me, I’m probably going to spend more time doing that than whatever the game tasks me with.
This console generation has saw people build these most amazing worlds and yeah, I totally think about how much effort goes into giving me these places to be in. It’s partly why I love a good photo mode, I can marvel at the work that goes in to making somewhere exist, somewhere I can never see for real. I can peek into every corner, zoom in on details I’d miss were I rushing past. A virtual mindfulness session, or something.
Just being, within a game, is nothing new for me. I’ve always, always found myself doing little in the way of videogame when the mood takes me. There’s a reason Jet Set Willy changed how I viewed games, sure it was plenty of videogame but also a strange, unbelievable mansion, full of the most curious things. Load it up, task myself with visiting a specific place. Do just that. On more tired days, WRITETYPER and go, unbothered.
Aside from being somewhere, it’s a reminder that these are worlds built from imagination, curious and unreal. Places that simply cannot, nor will ever be able to exist. Something I love in books, in films, why Dr Who remains my TV love for conjuring new worlds year over year.
And why, for everything else videogames have worked into their worlds, the most valuable thing they’ve ever added is a button that lets me sit my character down in the game world, to be able to spend time somewhere impossible, to find my peace in someone else’s dreams.