No Man's Sky Is A Surprisingly Good ASMR Game

No Man's Sky is, to many, a disappointment. The planet exploration game has been deemed tedious, boring and repetitive in stark contrast to its pre-release hype as an endlessly exciting adventure across a randomly-generated galaxy. Luckily, its tedium is exactly the quality that's made it perfect fodder for the ASMR community. Miss Fushi ASMR

On a frontier planet blanketed with red grass, The ASMR Nerd described his surroundings in whispers to his binaural microphone: "You can see these lush fields of waving grass and these funny trees," he said. He walked slowly across the planet's landscape, making tiny observations and mining resources. "I love the way the grass pulses with colour on this moon. Is it the wind rippling the grass?"

The ASMR Nerd's voice, hushed and deliberate, overlaid on an relaxing video game, to many inspires a magical, calming quality known as ASMR: "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response." Sometimes referred to as "head orgasms", ASMR is the tingling sensation that accompanies a Bob Ross trance. It's a quality of "flow": A "state of intense focus and diminished awareness of the passage of time that is often associated with optimal performance in several activities," according to one of the few studies on it. On YouTube, an enormous community has formed around ASMR, with ASMR celebrities amassing millions of views per video.

Streamers of ambient games have carved out their own niche in the ASMR YouTube community, I reported in June.

Nick, The ASMR Nerd, has mostly focused his whisperings on Skyrim. In his videos, he traverses the Elder Scrolls landscape, describing forest panoramas and rocky cliff sides to his 40,000 YouTube subscribers. "Skyrim... is a fully immersive fantasy universe," he explained to me. "There are huge natural areas and gorgeous visuals." But Nick had to turn off the enemies in Skyrim, erasing much of the game's drama.

Now, there's a new game where drama isn't a problem: No Man's Sky. On YouTube, 14,000 videos show up in a search for "No Man's Sky" and "ASMR".

Since No Man's Sky's release last month, it's received a tepid 2.5 stars on Steam, where nearly 43,000 negative reviews have written it off as, well, meh — especially compared to its pre-release hype. Some players have demanded refunds. In his review of No Man's Sky, Kotaku writer Kirk Hamilton described his experience 24 hours into the game:

I couldn't have been more over No Man's Sky if it had been in a mine. The narrative, such as it was, had become a hazy blur of overwritten philosophical rambling. The planets had become a hazy blur of crusty monsters and samey sunsets. I was bored.

Perhaps unsatisfying as a video game experience, No Man's Sky's "samey sunsets" and "rambling" are what make it work for ASMR videos.

"Many of the qualities that people criticise about No Man's Sky make it perfect for ASMR," Nick told me over email. "It's slow-paced. It lacks multiplayer. It's largely aimless. These things aren't normally considered positives in a game, but, in an ASMR video, it means you can slow down and smell the space roses without fear of jarring interruptions that rouse you from your zen state." Nick added that being able to turn off "that stupid suit voice" would benefit his videos.

"There's a giant mushroom. What do you think it is?" Miss Fushi says in a No Man's Sky ASMR video, pointing her laser at an enormous fungus. It's nighttime, and cold. Plants glow in the distance. "It's carbon!" she whispers excitedly.

Miss Fushi has repurposed No Man's Sky for her ASMR videos. Its limited action, sound and direction, combined with its infinite world, is the perfect cocktail for tingly relaxation. "No Man's Sky is an endless expanse of a game," she told me over email. "You can create your own adventure as you explore, which really is the true spirit of ASMR gaming."

Expectations for games shape our experiences of them. No Man's Sky defied expectations, provoking feelings of disappointment and anger. Yet, recontextualised, No Man's Sky succeeds in a community where its worst qualities are its merits.

"My only regret," Miss Fushi added, "is that it wouldn't run as clearly on my PC as I'd hoped."


Comments

    Wow, there's a community for everyone these days. But I must admit, some games I just want to space out at sometimes rather than play them

    Asmr sounds like some very stoner/liberal arts degree student thing.

      or you know, a therapeutic means for those who suffer from things like anxiety and depression,

        You can argue anything is therapeutic. It's still such a circlejerk tumblrina term.

          Like being a jerk online to everyone who does things your small mind can't comprehend, eh?

          wow. the internet never ceases to surprise with the amount of people tearing others down just so that they feel valid or empowered.

          if its helping people, who gives a shit. if its not illegal and doesnt hurt or negatively impact other people, who gives a shit.

          you sound like the type of guy that needs a hug and a bong, please go find those for yourself today. and just a dash of looking in the mirror and telling yourself that you love yourself because you're worth it.

            No thanks. I just don't need to make up rediculous terms for things to validate my life and make me feel like a special snowflake.

            This whole "if you don't have something nice to say. Don't say anything at all" thing isn't very realistic.

            Last edited 08/09/16 1:04 pm

              do you want a medal?
              there are plenty of ways to disagree or critique without being an asshole. so yeah, it is realistic to keep quiet if you cant say anything nice.

              not everyone has the same outlook on life as you,
              so dont rag on people who differ from you. or are you just a narcissist?

    Sorry, but I'd much rather crank up the excellent soundtrack than have to put up with some yank wandering around my head waffling crap at me.

    So ASMR is somebody whispering things over the top of a video?
    I don't really understand/

      just google ASMR, there seems to be lots of information on it.
      not sure its my thing, but you know. neither are laughing in groups classes, but they seem to make people feel happy.

        I'm not ragging on it, I did a bit of searching, and it does appear to be people whispering over videos.
        I didn't know that was a thing, and it would drive me nuts, but if people enjoy it ,then cool.

          yeah, i think it would drive me nuts too.

          I was first introduced to this in another Kotaku article with a video of a dude going through an old video game magazine, except they didn't mention anything about the type of channel it was so I was just getting frustrated at this guy whispering everything when I was trying to get a solid nostalgia hit.

          It's interesting to me that people can find it relaxing/soothing/head-gasmy. I find it unbearably creepy and can't make it through like a minute of it. Different strokes.

      I think it's the weird head-tingly effect, and whispering is one of the more common ways to induce it.

        It's a few things. I personally most commonly get into a very weird relaxed state from the whispering but a decent visual role play or bob Ross style video will fire off all the nerves at the base of my neck. It's quite pleasureable.

          I remember as a little kid getting that feeling from being approached by strangers and sharing my toys with them, or something like that. So strange.

            I get it from all kinds of things. Especially one on one interactions. Never had a name for it until fairly recently.

      It's just another borderline sex thing popularised by the internet, like food crush videos and furries.

    I've always thought of NMS as my "zen" game. It helps me just zone out and relax. If that's what this article is about, so be it.

    I was wondering why I got stuck playing it for hours and just melted into my chair. It didn't even register that it was relaxing my like that. Not as much tingling as a bob Ross video tho.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now