A year prior to the release of No Man’s Sky, Jamie’s sister passed away. While he was able to take solace in the game as he processed the grief, he found conversations surrounding the game were pretty toxic. So, he started his own No Man’s Sky community that coalesced around the same portion of space. As his community grew, Jamie received an invitation to join a larger conglomerate of players: The United Federation of Travelers.
In No Man’s Sky, there exists at least a dozen active communities of players who collaborate online in order to trade and farm resources together. Colloquially, No Man’s Sky players call these “civilizations,” and they are led by construction workers, fathers, and hobbyist musicians. The most visible example of this is the Galactic Hub, founded by redditor 7101334, whose mission is to catalogue a specific portion of the Euclid galaxy.
In a nutshell, the Federation is a model United Nations for No Man’s Sky. Jamie, who represents his Facebook group, No Man’s Sky Love, even compared his civilization of peace loving “enjoyers of the universe” to countries like Denmark and Sweden. Unlike the toxic conversations from No Man’s Sky’s launch, the Federation offers a collaborative community for civilizations to share knowledge with each other.
Federation members describe what they do as bureaucratic in nature. They are Ambassadors from their respective communities of what they call “civilized space,” which they’ve mapped out into quadrants. They come together in the Federation to discuss how to divvy up star systems, chart out dedicated routes for trade and travel, and organize the No Man’s Sky Olympics, which began yesterday. There’s a bit of roleplay, as part of the fun is the Federation’s nature as a fictional body of government. But because this is a video game, the disagreements that arise are more granular than ones in real world politics. Once, there was a conversation over whether or not civilizations should use Galactic Standard Time, a fanmade measure of time for civilizations to use to create a universally consistent timeline for lore. More recently, the dissolution of an alliance created unexpected problems for an ongoing public works project.
The United Nations of Delta is an alliance of civilizations in the Delta quadrant of the Federation’s galaxy. While Delta space isn’t as populous as other quadrants, Delta players have begun an ambitious project to attract players: The Galactic Railroad Network, a snaking chain of planets with farms and resources. Two weeks ago, a nation left the UND alliance, effectively dissolving it. Although the lone nation remaining tried to keep it going, they ran into trouble. According to leaked PMs posted to the Federation subreddit, UND was apparently discouraging other civilizations from joining the Federation, and had discussed “stealing” a civilization from the Federation to bolster UND’s numbers.
In response, the UND offered to become partners with the Federation and act as a gateway to Delta, though other players weren’t having it. “If you want people to take you seriously then you need to be upfront and honest. You can’t say one thing only to turn around and do the opposite,” another Ambassador wrote. “Furthermore, what’s the distinction between the UND and the Solarion Imperium? As far as I can tell the UND is a clever way of disguising SI Imperial ambitions.” Over the next few days all nations except the Solarion Imperium would leave the UND. Through public votes and negotiation, those nations decided to stay in the Delta quadrant to complete the GRN and keep Delta populous. Over a few days in the Federation, a galactic power rose and fell—meanwhile, many players of No Man’s Sky never even meet another player.
Today, the UND representative posted on the Federation subreddit with a mea culpa, writing, “the UND has been a disaster from the start and it’s my fault for ruining relations with the Delta civilizations. That’s something I greatly regret.” However, they also came with a new proposal for a United Nations of independent city states, outside of the Federation’s control, politicking as they had been from the start.
It’s worth noting that while people disagree within the Federation, ultimately people are here to talk out their problems and work together. Tensions can run high, and language can get hyperbolic, but the tone of the subreddit is civil. 710 told me that the Federation was designed to be leaderless, and so they strive for a consensus in order to move forward on any plan. Besides, negotiating alliances, starting public works projects, or even stoking some intra-civilizational conflict are all fun situations to roleplay, and in the world of No Man’s Sky have no chance of turning into a depressing forever-war as they do in real life.
The leaders I’ve spoken to have said that this space bureaucracy has impacted their real life approaches to problems. Jamie, who described himself as a people pleaser, has learned you can’t satisfy everyone all the time. Sodacon, who represents the Amino Hub in the Federation along with redditor NMS_Survival_Guru, told me over email that while he considers himself an introvert, working with the Federation has changed his perception of himself.
“I have a better understanding of what it takes to bring people together and plan major projects,” he said. “It was nice to see our community flourish and it helps me have confidence in my daily life. Maybe this means I’m not such an introvert after all.”
As for Nevadander, Ambassador from the Deep Thought Collective, the Federation has helped him with patience. “You know, putting in the time to get the reward,” he said. “Now, after all this time, the reward is other people.”