Over the weekend, Starfield players began to share reports of a strange paranormal infestation. There are asteroids in the game that, for reasons known only to gods and/or programmers, follow you from orbit to orbit, flying eerily in formation with your ship, and sometimes even accompanying you to a planet’s surface. “In one of my weirdest Bethesda glitch experiences, I’ve got a tiny asteroid that’s been following me for the past 30 hours,” user ReverendRoo posted on Reddit, triggering an avalanche of comments reminiscent of UFO chasers spotting each other at a NASA open day. “I would catch a glimpse of it from time to time,” wrote fattfett. “I tried to approach it but you can’t. It stays away. I assumed it had a deeper meaning [toward] the endgame.” Some players, like Blackdius, have multiple asteroids in tow. It seems impossible to blow them up. I’ve dug up a Youtube video below of one such clingy space boulder from a couple of weeks back. As you can see, it’s not just a fixed background point like a screen artefact, but seems to move in response to the player’s ship. Most peculiar.
The unromantic explanation for all this is that it’s some kind of memory issue, possibly addressable by clearing your cache. You can also make use of Starfield console commands to purge your screen of the thing, as described by redditor PhotogenicEwok in the ReverendRoo thread. “If you’re on PC, open the console, click on the rock, and type disable. It doesn’t technically get rid of the rock, just makes it invisible and removes its collision, but it’ll do for now.” But it’s just possible that asteroid hangers-on in Starfield have some kind of wider lore or plot significance – without spoiling too much, the game’s NG+ options embrace the idea that anything and everything goes, if you run the simulation often enough. And in any case, it’s a nice opportunity for a quick plunge into the realm of asteroid hauntology.
If we were looking for a strictly psychological explanation for creeper spacerocks in Starfield, we might invoke frequency bias, aka the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which describes the tendency to notice something more after seeing it for the first time, leading to the belief that said something is everywhere. Why do we become so fixated? Possibly because we’re afraid of the object or entity in question. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was named in the mid-1990s for a German terrorist group, which people began to see everywhere after reading about it in newspapers.
There is ample reason for people to be afraid of asteroids, of course: they are rogue hunks of debris with the potential to smash into planets and wipe them clean of life. They’re also a videogame nemesis of some antiquity. In 1979’s Asteroids, you blow up screenfuls of space rocks to the sound of a mercilessly escalating Jaws-style chipset theme. There are older literary precedents – on the one hand, space impact stories such as HG Wells’ The Star, and on the other, representations of wandering planets in astrology, which were said to have a malign influence on human beings. Who knows, perhaps all these stories and traditions have combined to breed some kind of collective hallucination among Starfield players. Or perhaps it’s just a bug.
Many of the Starfield players affected by the invasive asteroid phenomenon find it irritating or unsettling, but a few have become emotionally attached to their bizarre astrogeological stalkers. “I also have an asteroid buddy, his name is Rocky and he even comes down to my outpost on Nesoi,” commented DadJokesGaming on Twix, winning exactly zero points for originality. If you also have an asteroid pal, I wish you both all the very best. I’m sure there’s nothing sinister afoot. Still – and I’m sure this is just my imagination playing tricks, but is that asteroid getting… closer?