Destiny And The Self
This was the first time ever I got to buy a console at launch, so I got myself a PS4. After the initial rush of playing the launch games, I spent most of the year playing the free games that came with PS+ and making use of the Netflix, Crunchyroll streaming apps. Then came the release of basically the most hyped game in a long time, something that just felt to everyone like it was supposed to change the face of gaming even if they never explicitly said that in their marketing campaigns. I had a $25 off coupon at Dell.com and decided “Hey, why not?” and got the game.
Dell shipped the game, but it reached me the day after release. I only received the game one day after release but everyone else on my friends list had already gotten to Level 10 and above. I started off playing the game solo, and played all of the Earth and some Moon missions solo. At this point, I was playing the game just like any other FPS game, trying to play one level after the other. If you know one thing about Destiny, good chance is that you’ve heard how bad it is at explaining itself. Just like the main protagonist who is just resurrected from the dead and put into this world they know nothing of, you are just shoved into the world and shown all these things with little to no explanation. The mission selector shows you various places you can go to, it is very open ended, no chronology. I ended up selecting the mission that had a difficulty level closest to my character’s level.
Quest For Destiny, All Alone
For most of these, the level of my character was one level below the recommended level for the missions. I was playing these things alone, and at this point, I began to realize that the game was not made to be played alone. Of course it may dynamically change the number and difficulty of the enemies on screen based on how many people are currently playing it, but the vast expansive levels and their design where you have to travel along really wide but isolated areas gave a real feeling of helplessness. Even though I was able to complete the missions, knowing the fact that every mission I will be facing hordes of enemies as my robot friend tries to decrypt something, just did not sit well with me. Unlike many other games, Destiny just lent itself to being deconstructed right at the start; there was not much to do in those missions. There was no way to pause the game or even delay the respawn; if I kept dying in the final wave of enemy hordes, I could not wait and take a breather. I had to either abort the mission or just keep trying.
This just made me think about why I was even playing the game. The lack of cohesive story and the repetitive nature of missions made me question myself. I told myself for a while that all I had to do was level up by playing some free-roam missions or PvP, but soon the whole point of playing a different part of game just to be able to play the “required” part of a game felt like nuisance to me. I joined some of my high level friends at one point, hoping that I can hop on and enjoy. I saw them fighting a horde and tried to revive them, but then as I revived them, they started dancing, soon the game restarted from checkpoint. I saw this happen more than once and then it struck me, they were doing this just so that they could gain experience easily and level up. I also joined a friend shooting at the infamous loot cave. This was basically my first ever introduction to “grinding” in a game. I’ve been playing games all my life, I have probably done some grinding before, but have not come across anything that felt so devoid of soul as those examples. I could not see myself just shooting at stuff so that I can gain experience, and all for what? So that I can shoot some more?
I am the type of person who plays games mostly thinking that I will 100% it and then not replay it ever, and this game was basically taking me out of my comfort zone, making me play the same levels, telling me that 100% does not mean anything as most of the things in the game are randomly generated anyways. At this point it was more or less clear to me that this was just not meant for me to play all alone. I started telling myself that I could be completing so many story-based SP games in the time I spent grinding in Destiny, told myself that even my job never felt as chore-like like Destiny was feeling right now.
Ones In Tune With Their Destiny
I was ready to trade my game in, and then got an invite from a friend to play the game. We ended playing for 5 hours. This was the same game that I was thinking so strongly of trading in and now I had spent a good part of my Sunday just sitting there and playing the same missions again with someone else. None of the missions felt anything like they did before. All we did was chit-chat and comment on the game, and we were pressing triggers and moving sticks as we did that. I then decided to give Destiny another week.
This time I found two other friends to play with, and have played most of my Destiny missions with them. Majority of the time we spent complaining about how the game was not fun and was trying to change anything that seemed remotely fun and why the game made no sense and how the lore was all put in the apps but not in the game. We played for over 10 hours this weekend and we did all kinds of missions and activities in the game, ranging from hunting rare trophies to playing with huge balloons in Tower.
At this point, every time I played it, I no longer felt any of the feelings that I felt playing solo, and it felt like the game had some redeeming qualities to it too. I soon began to realize that Destiny was making me play my first ever MMO without directly telling me that. The only aspects of it that I started liking were the aspects that could have been experienced playing any other MMO. However, the biggest thing was that Destiny went out of their way to tell people that it was not an MMO, but in fact, this is nothing but that. The messaging of Destiny has been such that it is everything that Bungie has explicitly said it is not. The Players and Bungie are indeed defining Destiny together, Bungie defines Destiny as everything that is not what it’s players define it as.
Where Am I Headed
However, playing Destiny has made me question a lot of things. All my life I’ve been playing games, wanted to play them, and keep doing something with games, not just play them. Now that I have the time to actually sit and play games the whole weekend, playing only one thing whole weekend, where the whole game is self-perpetuating, made me question why anyone would play a game such as this. I recently spent time completing all cups, all gold in MK8, questioning why I was doing it, every lap I drove around in a loop. Ended up telling myself that it was because it is “fun” and it only takes 15minutes to play a cup and I end it with a sense of satisfaction. Destiny is very similar but more than giving me any kind of sense of satisfaction, it only made me feel like I could be playing so many other, better, games. I could be playing games that have an interesting story, nice set pieces and don’t just involve shooting hordes and hordes of enemies one after the other. However, I still keep playing it.
I’ve purposefully kept myself away from games like Hearthstone because I know that I will like the gameplay, but it is an endless game. Even if I am having fun in that fleeting moment of deciding victory, I will at the end of the day end up with just as many games in my backlog, and with lesser time. Feels like even if the games can be fun, just fun is not enough. Or maybe, fun is just enough, but I don’t want myself to get addicted to the endless high of having only-fun that will never be satiated once one gets a taste of it. Maybe it is a way of exercising self control. Maybe I am limiting the experiences I have, so that I do not end up limiting my experiences by playing only that one thing that I have now chosen not to play. Maybe I should keep playing Destiny, because I keep waiting for “the right time” to play anything else from my backlog and it never comes. Maybe having an endless supply of menial game tasks will bootstrap my urge to play other games.
Everyone has a reason why they play games and what they want out of it. I seem to have lost the plot somewhere, and all I know is that I want to play games, and get a sense of satisfaction out of it. For the time being, the biggest sense of satisfaction is, missing. I will keep playing games, and ask myself why I do it and what it is that brought me here. There are so many experiences within this year even, that gave me this great sense of satisfaction and cerebral pleasure. But Destiny, did a good job of making me question the futility of anything and everything.
I have only one Story mission left. I see my friends playing. I see BestBuy is still offering $40 for Destiny Trade-In…