When Endless found me, I wasn’t in a very good place — having just moved back in with my parents after completing a Masters degree (which I had only taken because I couldn’t think of anything else to do) my life was drifting. I had no confidence, few friends, and no real idea what I wanted. At the same time, my first girlfriend was also in the process of coming out, which precipitated a very long and difficult break-up.
As with many of the other difficult periods in my life, I turned to my constant companion: games. I used the last of my student overdraft to realize a childhood dream — a humble gaming PC. There are many different types of play — a casual with friends, an intense online session, but with this PC, I was playing to numb myself. Afternoons would turn into nights, and nights into mornings, all in an attempt to burn-out my brain, just so I didn’t have to think for a while. It was a dark, bittersweet time, playing the games I wish I could’ve in my childhood, yet only to escape my adult present.
But one day I happened upon a game that had just launched on Early Access, a 4x, sci-fi saga called Endless Space 2. It was the first I’d ever heard of the Endless series, of Steam Early Access, or even of 4x for that matter, but a less cynical part of my brain thought it might be fun to be a part of, so I bought it. It didn’t disappoint—Endless Space 2 was a wonderful introduction to the intricate worlds of 4x. But more than that, it was a game full of stories — of ancient races, dark mysteries and collapsing empires, but no matter how epic those stories were, they were always about the fallibility of life.
Over the following year I watched the games’ development in rapture, as new mechanics and features were added, but also, new races. At times it felt like a somewhat godly perspective, watching species emerge, each distinctive, each with their own fascinating tale of origin. But it was a perspective that fit the narrative so well — the Endless, a powerful ancient race, destroy each other in civil war, and while that leaves the galaxy free, it also leaves it confused. Races created for specific purposes are suddenly self-determinate — the Remnant, for example, a race of robot assassins, decide to make amends and build a better galaxy. And even more races, such as the Unfallen or the Riftborn, are simply caught in the crossfire, as their worlds are destroyed or they are forced to adapt to a new and threatening existence.
Discovering these races and their stories brought me a good deal of comfort. Stories like the Niris, who polluted and consumed their ocean world, but now the rusted factories and bleached coral reefs inspire their races ecological efforts. Stories like the Pulsos, sentient crystal pilgrims who are forever searching for the mystical core of the universe. Or stories like the Vaulters, who’ve spent hundreds of years simply looking for a home. They all create a picture of life — vibrant and diverse, yet also inherently flawed. But beyond those flaws there lies continuity, an Endless-ness. I found that thought comforting.
Because if there’s one thing Endless Space is about, it’s Endlessness — the continuation and adaptability of life, no matter the form. The universe is so much bigger than us, so filled with things that are incomprehensible, and while that could prompt a nihilistic perspective, Endless Space creates an uplifting one. Life always finds a way, and though we may stumble, it’s never too late to start trying to put things right, whether you’re an assassin robot, a homeless Vaulter, or simply a confused graduate.
When I felt lost, Endless Space helped remind me what I believe. That in the face of such endlessness, what can we do but strive to create our own meaning, our civilizations, cultures, and our lives (as the vehicles that guide them) standing as rebellions to judgement, to false gods, and to fear.