Is NASApunk Just a Marketing Gimmick? Unpacking the Hype around Starfield

  • Ethan Smith
  • 03 Jul 2023

As the world waits with bated breath for the release of Starfield, the gaming community is slowly being introduced to a new term, NASApunk. The term, coined by Todd Howard, the game's creator, is an attempt to describe the aesthetic of the much-anticipated game. But, many are questioning whether the term carries any real weight or if it's simply another example of the industry's love for using the -punk suffix loosely. In this article, we will explore what NASApunk might mean and whether Starfield truly fits the bill.

What is NASApunk?

According to Howard, the term NASApunk is meant to capture the spirit of the midcentury space exploration era. The game's spaceships are designed to reflect the aesthetics of the '60s when humanity had just begun exploring the cosmos. Howard's aim was to evoke a sense of nostalgia, calling back to a time when the universe was an open canvas and optimism for a future among the stars was rife. However, critics argue that while the game certainly exhibits a midcentury NASA-inspired aesthetic, it doesn't align with the anti-establishment ethos associated with the -punk suffix.

The Punk Dilemma

The term punk, initially linked to the cyberpunk genre, symbolizes rebellion and generally features characters that are marginalized, fighting against a dystopian establishment. Steampunk, one of the most famous subgenres, is criticized for abandoning these themes, focusing instead on a pseudo-Victorian aesthetic. Critics argue that this trend dilutes the significance of the punk suffix, turning it into a mere marketing buzzword. The case of Starfield seems to be no different. While the game does showcase a pioneering spirit reminiscent of the golden age of space exploration, it lacks the rebellious and anti-establishment elements that make something truly punk.

The Law Enforcement Paradox

Moreover, the game offers players the option to role-play as law enforcement officers, which many argue is the antithesis of the punk spirit. The punk ethos is fundamentally about challenging authority and fighting against the system, making the role of a law enforcer, who maintains order and upholds the status quo, fundamentally incompatible. This has led to further criticism of Starfield's NASApunk label, with critics suggesting that it's a misguided attempt to lend the game an edgy, rebellious aura.

Is NASApunk Just a Gimmick?

Despite these criticisms, many are still hopeful that Starfield will live up to the hype. Some are optimistic that the game will surprise players with a truly punk narrative, challenging societal norms and satirizing modern issues. However, there is a growing consensus that the NASApunk label is more of a marketing gimmick than a true reflection of the game's ethos. Ultimately, gamers will have to wait until Starfield's release to see whether it truly encapsulates the spirit of NASApunk, or if it's simply another example of the industry's tendency to use the punk suffix without fully understanding or honoring its origins.

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