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European Space Agency praises Starfield's NASA-Punk aesthetic

"It's more of a human thing."

European Space Agency says Starfield's NASA-Punk aesthetic humanises the game
Image credit: Bethesda

Last year, Bethesda described Starfield as having a "NASA-Punk" aesthetic. This term was coined by the development team to describe "a sci-fi universe that's a little more grounded and relatable". Essentially, Bethesda wants its game to have a sense of realism meets grit, and it is doing this by combining the practicality of real-life space technology with the aesthetics of Punk culture.

Now, this design decision has got the European Space Agency's approval, with its head of branding and partnerships Emmet Fletcher telling me he believes Starfield's NASA-Punk aesthetic "humanises" the game.

"This is the aesthetic where you basically have worn and loved futuretech? Actually, if you look at some of the things we have, it's a little bit like that already," he told me from his office in Paris earlier this week. "We have things that if it works, it carries on working. And there's no need to change it. It's about reliability, and if it's reliable, it carries on."

Starfield official live action trailer.Watch on YouTube

Fletcher reflected on ESA's Rosetta mission, a mission that saw the agency follow a comet on its orbit around the Sun, among other feats. Rosetta was 10 years in development, and it then took another 10 years for the satellite to actually get to the comet.

"You're looking at least 20 years of development. So you can see that a lot of the things that were used will look quite out of date, but in fact, they're the things that worked, that get us there," he said. "So I think 'NASA-Punk' - or that should be ESA-Punk? Space-Punk? - that kind of thing actually humanises it a bit."

Fletcher said this design is a "different take on the Star Treks" of this world, where everything often looks "squeaky clean" or like it's "self-healing".

"I think the reality is probably closer to the NASA-Punk kind of area, where things are used, and they're not absolutely super shiny," he said. "Some areas are - you go into a clean room, and a clean room is spotless. It's really spotless. But you know, your spanner is gonna have scratches on it, and screwdrivers maybe have a bit of tape around them, because you sort of get a better grip that way, because people are practical. And it's more of a human thing... And I like that kind of thing."

Fletcher noted other entertainment media has used this sort of futuristic meets gritty design before, offering up 1982's sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner as an example.

"I think [Starfield's NASA-Punk aesthetic] has humanised the situation, instead of it being all straight lines and shine," Fletcher concluded.

You can read more from my chat with Fletcher, where I find out what video games get right about space, and, more interestingly, what they get wrong, here.

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