Bethesda, the game development company, introduced Starfield last year, describing it as having a unique “NASA-Punk” aesthetic. The concept behind this term was to create a science fiction universe that feels more down-to-earth and relatable. In essence, Bethesda aimed to combine the practical aspects of actual space technology with the visual elements of Punk culture.
This innovative design choice has captured the attention and approval of the European Space Agency (ESA), particularly from Emmet Fletcher, the head of branding and partnerships at the agency. According to Fletcher, Starfield’s NASA-Punk aesthetic adds a touch of human connection to the game.
Speaking from his office in Paris, Fletcher elaborated on the concept, stating, “Think about an aesthetic where future technology appears well-used and cherished. Actually, if you examine some of our own technology, it already fits this description quite well. We have devices that continue to function as long as they work, without the need for constant updates. It’s all about reliability—if something works reliably, it endures.”
Fletcher drew parallels with ESA’s Rosetta mission, a project that involved tracking a comet’s orbit around the Sun over a span of 20 years, including a decade of development. “When you consider the extensive timeframes of these missions, you realize that many of the tools and equipment might seem outdated, but they are what allowed us to achieve our goals,” he explained. “Hence, the concept of ‘NASA-Punk’—or perhaps ESA-Punk? Space-Punk?—adds a human touch to this scenario.”
Discussing the rationale behind this aesthetic, Fletcher compared it to the traditional portrayal of futuristic settings in popular media, citing examples like the polished appearance of Star Trek. He contrasted this with the more realistic approach of the NASA-Punk style, where objects show signs of wear and tear.
“Certain areas might be pristine, like a clean room, which is impeccably maintained. However, your tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, might show signs of use, like scratches and taped handles for better grip. It’s a reflection of practicality and human nature,” he added. “And that’s what I find appealing.”
Fletcher also noted that other forms of entertainment have successfully incorporated this blend of futuristic and gritty design, pointing to the iconic sci-fi movie Blade Runner from 1982 as an example.
In conclusion, Fletcher emphasized that Starfield’s NASA-Punk aesthetic has succeeded in infusing a human touch into the visuals, departing from the convention of sleek and sterile designs. The fusion of realism and a touch of grit creates an aesthetic that resonates with audiences on a deeper level, fostering a stronger sense of connection between the game world and the players.