Knowing nothing about Elite: Dangerous, aside from wanting to play it immediately, the event/events that have electrified the community this past week are astounding. No doubt cruising any number of video game related sites, the news that first contact has been made in Elite: Dangerous is exhilarating. It’s events like these that shape gaming communities, binding them in a way of pure elation. While only a few pilots have encountered the aptly named Thargoids (maybe they’re not Thargoids), it’s exciting none the less. Elite: Dangerous has created a taxonomy in its universe that is utterly alien and so far, remains that way. All one need do is watch any video of the encounters that are becoming more frequent. It’s an oppressive feeling that the alien craft seems to bear down upon the pilot facing a ship wide systems failure – having just been pulled out of warp. It’s a feeling of helplessness, when faced with something beyond understanding, that seems to be a far greater entity. Video of first contact below:
Focusing in on the fact that only one person got to experience this eerily unique situation alone in a universe occupied by other players is even more astounding. Usually big events like these are celebrated server wide. In Elite: Dangerous, it’s more of an every pilot for themselves situation, making the universe a dangerous place. Players have been digging, quite literally, for some time – coming upon alien ruins across star systems, all pointing to the fact that they might not be the only one’s traversing the stars. Elite: Dangerous pilots have been waiting for this moment, and while only encounters of the second-kind are being made, it opens the door of possibility for what’s to come. What’s to come already seems to be happening, as more and more pilots are reporting encounters with these strange alien vessels. While many are saying they have an organic quality to them (which they do) or are akin to something Lovecraftian, let’s not forget, the Zerg were organic beings able to fly through cold-dead-space.
What this means moving forward is that the community itself is on the move to find out more about these Thargoids, and just what to expect when the encounters begin to happen more frequently – becoming commonplace. Online games are known for dropping big events, letting everyone know just what could be going on; developers want the players to get excited. World of Warcraft is a perfect example (I’m about to take it back), looking back on the world event that was, opening the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj. The community was abuzz with just exactly what was going on. On January 23, 2006 in the realm of Medivh the gates were opened. While the scale of these two events vary, they share similar traits. Elite: Dangerous is just a slower drip – an IV for the patient gamer. By no means did the developers of Elite: Dangerous hide the fact that aliens might be among the stars. As to what the alien vessels are doing, that is still up for debate.
By and large, online games could learn a thing or two from Elite: Dangerous. It’s a bold move, to feed your audience on such small portions, but the pay off is huge. Already, fans are clamoring back to the series and rookie pilots like myself are ready to take to the stars. How odd to think that a game like No Man’s Sky arrived in 2016 when Elite: Dangerous had already occupied the same stars for many years. And while No Man’s Sky promised certain things that don’t need attention here, Elite: Dangerous was already doing these things exponentially on a finer-tuned scale. Elite: Dangerous isn’t the first space fairing game out there; it’s what it is doing that is special. Feeding the audience keeping the universe exhilarating and not revealing every trick up its sleeve.
The encounter with the alien craft is a thing that should not be forgotten when looking back on excellent gaming moments of 2017. Coming fresh off end of the year lists for 2016, it’s easy to forget things that happen early in the year and this event happened in the first week. Elite: Dangerous is going strong, the community is more alive than it has been and looks to continue growing. With the addition of coming to Xbox (the point of discovery) as well as releasing on PS4 soon, pilots will keep flocking to the stars. Much like EVE Online, Elite: Dangerous knows it’s a big game with plenty of time on its hands. While it might not be on the scale of games like EVE its becoming a contender none the less. If they can keep nurturing their audience with events like this, it is sure to stay locked in for many years to come.