People Are Using 'No Man’s Sky' to Memorialize Lost Relatives

For some, a game about wonder and discovery has become a quiet place to remember the dead.

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Aug 12 2016, 6:47pm

In trying to cover a game as vast as No Man's Sky, we at VICE Gaming were torn between two needs: First, we wanted to offer you a picture of our experience playing the game; second, we want to spend quality time with NMS before coming down with any sort of "verdict" about our feelings. So to do both of these things, we decided to write a series of letters or dispatches to one another (and you), about what we'd discovered in our first hours of gameplay. Austin found the game to be a stress reliever, while Mike found himself running around in terror. As Patrick is waiting for the PC version, he's been following the community's early reactions. We've tried to paint a picture for you of what the game feels like—its strengths and flaws and frustrations. We're not done yet, though. Look for plenty more on NMS in the days and weeks ahead.

Dear Austin and Mike,

I've spent little time in the world of No Man's Sky, only briefly booting up the PlayStation 4 version to wrap my head around the basics. I'm waiting for the PC version to launch later today, and besides hoping for a good version of the game, I'm anxious to form an opinion on it, one way or the other. In the meantime, I've been following what other people have been doing with the game, and found myself tearing up at some of the stories I'd found, like this one...

Monica Goebel Memorial Planet is warm and full of plants.

Though Peter Cantelon discovered it first, he won't be the last person to visit. The vastness of No Man's Sky's world means it's unlikely, but not impossible, for players to find one another's discoveries.

No Man's Sky has been out for less than a week, but thousands of hungry explorers are hurriedly mapping out the game's enormous universe. Players who discover something for the first time, ranging from whole star systems to individual plants, are allowed to name it, as well. Some names are goofy jokes, while others are more personal: memorials to lost loved ones.

Peter Cantelon's mother was 67-years-old when she suddenly died from a brain aneurism.

"She was healthy and it was a complete shock," he told me over email. "It's been difficult."

The two had a close relationship, and though she didn't play games beyond Solitaire or FarmVille, she always supported Cantelon's passion. She helped him buy his first console.

Photo courtesy of Peter Cantelon

Like many others, Cantelon has kept a close eye on the much-hyped No Man's Sky, ever since it was announced. The close proximity of his mother's passing and No Man's Sky's release put an idea in his head; there was a way to use his hobby to remember his mother.

"Even though I know it's aether and pixels and code it is meaningful," he said. "It's one of 18 quintillion planets now and no one else may ever find it but I know it's there and it has her name on it. That's good enough for me."

(The developers of No Man's Sky have claimed the game features 18 quintillion planets.)

But Monica Goebel Memorial Planet is just the beginning of Cantelon's journey in No Man's Sky. He's made a note about the celestial body's location, as he hopes to return "from time to time." Worried he'll lose track of his memorial, Cantelon hasn't moved far from the planet yet.

"I want to make sure I can make my way back regardless of where I go," he said.

Cantelon is not alone. When he shared his story on the No Man's Sky subreddit, others were touched by Cantelon's gesture, and made plans to create memorials of their own.

Like Cantelon, Michael Albertie also lost his mother. But unlike Cantelon, her passing was more than two years ago, and the relationship alternated between great and "not so great."

It's one of 18 quintillion planets now and no one else may ever find it but I know it's there and it has her name on it. That's good enough for me. - Peter Cantelon

"She sacrificed so much to give me a better life than I had," said Albertie. "At times I felt she was too strict and overprotective of me, but as an adult now I can see that she was trying to keep me safe and in check."

Instead of just a planet, Albertie is looking for a species that would remind him of his mother. He's scouting for a cold and rainy planet with overcast clouds draping the skies, while also hoping to find some alien frogs. As you might expect, she loved the cold, and she loved frogs.

Having his mother memorialized in No Man's Sky is a pragmatic decision for Albertie, too; he wants a place that he can visit anytime he wants, whenever his emotions take him there. Her ashes were buried far from Albertie's daily life, so he's unable to spend much time with them.

"It would help me to have a place to go, despite it being digital, where I can walk or fly and just remember her, and maybe even talk to her," he told me. "It's been two years and seven months but in my brain it still feels like it just happened. As much as it is a memorial to a wonderful mother, in a small way, I think it's for me as well."

Jules Gallaty wants that, as well. Her sister, Amanda, took her own life six years ago.

"I know for certain my sister would love No Man's Sky," said Jules. "She was a gamer too who played online games for years (World of Warcraft, for one) and like many of us, loved the 'escape' that playing games offers with fantasy places and characters."

Photo courtesy of Jules Gallaty

Jules was nine years older than Amanda, which made it difficult to establish an intimate connection. Jules had already left her parents' house before Amanda was in middle school. She was married, having kids, and living four states away while Amanda was growing up.

"I always knew she was different and not comfortable with this world from a young age," she said. " [...] I never knew she was having so many problems that would end up the way it did."

Nature, science, and space were some of Amanda's biggest interests, and though Jules doesn't subscribe to religion, she likes to imagine "she's somewhere out there in the stars." To that end, Jules decided to follow Cantelon's lead and find a planet to name after Amanda. She's waiting for the PC version to be released, however, and hopes to find a planet soon.

"Her own planet, Amanda Mai, is [out there] floating quietly and it's a beautiful place."

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