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NASA’s Stunning Space Photos Make Me Want To Explore Starfield More Than Bethesda Ever Could

The James Webb Space Telescope – or JWST – launched on Christmas Day 2021. I guess you have now saw the results (opens in a new tab). The telescope gives us the deepest look we’ve ever seen into the universe, and while I don’t have an existential crisis over the size and insignificance of humans, I am in awe.

These pictures are awesome. And not the version of the word we use when your friend says they can pick you up on the way to the movies. Brilliant as impressive. Awesome as breathtaking and perspective changing. The JWST photos even made me cry a little. But they also made me want to play Starfield more than Bethesda ever did.

Until recently, my main excitement about Starfield was the return of the bizarre characters from the developers (opens in a new tab). Their over-elastic faces stretching with emotion and weird inter-battle banter are one of my favorite parts of Bethesda’s previous work, and seeing how that translates into the space will be a personal highlight. While other members of the PC Gamer team wondered if the 1000 planets will be boring (opens in a new tab) Where not (opens in a new tab), I focused on the interpersonal relationships of spaceflight. But with the arrival of these images from NASA, I have this overwhelming feeling that I need to find out what’s out there. And Starfield is gaming’s next big adventure in space.

(Image credit: NASA)

Of course, I’ve always been interested in the exploration aspect of Starfield, but the JWST amplified that curiosity. Just the first picture, SMACS 0723 (opens in a new tab), was enough to disconcert me. We are used to seeing stars and galaxies in concept. But an image where these elements are distorted by gravity to show us some of the oldest galaxies is conceptually ridiculous. And then being told that what you see is the equivalent of if you were holding a grain at arm’s length from the sky, it’s a puzzle. And SMACS 0723 was just the warm-up act for what NASA revealed on July 12.

Yesterday we had images (opens in a new tab) of the South Ring Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet and the Carina Nebula. And as they took to Twitter, I was caught up in the delight. Even if science and astronomy aren’t your philosophical hobbies, these images capture your full attention, if only for a second. Thousands if not millions of us have set them as backgrounds on PCs, phones, and tablets, unable to get past these extraordinary concepts. These images exist. There is a point in physical space where you could theoretically see this. It’s up there somewhere. And thanks to the incredible efforts of some of the smartest people on the planet, we get the smallest slice, no, crumbs of the universe to gorge.

Bethesda may never have seen it coming, but I think the JWST footage may have inspired more than just me. It’s not just his game that intrigues me following these images, but it’s the most modern and grounded in reality game we’ll have on the market to land on a planet and mess around as you please.

Bethesda’s best marketing now is NASA itself rather than one of those roundtables or even its initial gameplay reveal. I want to see space. I want to find planets and cross galaxies. I want to look up at the sky and think there’s something out there that I can see for myself. Even though Starfield is fiction, the existence of the phenomena observed by the JWST is almost fictional to me as well. We know they’re real, but they’re so far removed from our reality that these clouds of space dust stick in my head as closer to art than science.

I know Bethesda has worked hard to mold the world of Starfield as it is, but these images symbolize what it means to explore space. They encapsulate the wonder of looking beyond anything we have ever seen before. Your gameplay trailer even says it’s the goal of the faction the Starfield protagonist joins. Constellation’s manta is, “We’re all here because we’re attached to the biggest question of all: what’s out there?” And with the JWST images, that’s what I want to know more than ever.

Oh, and something else. NASA-punk (opens in a new tab) is a ridiculous thing to call Starfield’s aesthetic, not because it doesn’t serve a functional militaristic space purpose, but because NASA blows Starfield out of the water with the cool shit it does. Come on, have you seen what does the JWST look like? All that gold and silver, it’s closer to a Met Gala outfit than anything we’ve seen from Starfield so far. NASA is cool as shit and games have yet to reach the lofty heights of its designs.