The Light of a Game: A Guardian’s Retrospective Look at the Original Destiny

I had an astounding experience with Destiny last night.

In theory, Destiny 2 is supposed to launch tomorrow. In practice however, thanks to various workarounds and a rolling release schedule, Destiny 2 is basically launching today. As a result, for me at least, last night was my last hurrah with Destiny 1.

And what a hurrah it was.

There remain a number of things I never did in Destiny 1. I never went to the Lighthouse, I never got an Eyasluna, and I’ve never owned one of the many legendary Exotics like Icebreaker of the Vex Mythoclast. However, the only thing I’d never done that actually made it onto my Destiny 1 bucket list was this:

Run through Wrath of the Machine.

Destiny 1’s final raid, the apex of its cooperative multiplayer experience, was something I’d long since given up hope of ever completing. With my old Fireteam having scattered to the winds more than a year ago, I no longer had anyone to run the six-player activity with. And in all reality, that was fine. By the time I’d made it through to the end of Rise of Iron’s story campaign, I was already so primed for Destiny 2 that I largely no longer cared about anything Destiny 1 had left to offer. However, as the actual release of Destiny 2 crept closer and closer, I realized that as much as I just wanted to devour all of the new game’s content, I also wanted to bid a proper farewell to the old game.

But how? To this day, I don’t particularly enjoy the Crucible (Destiny’s competitive multiplayer offering), and the lower level, three-player Strike missions had become so well-worn that they were hardly the blaze of glory I felt my story with Destiny 1 needed to go out on. I thought about replaying through all the story missions, but my fully leveled and geared Guardian would make them all far too easy, and starting a new character meant losing access to all of the endgame gear and abilities that made the game so fun.

But Wrath of the Machine? That’s something that would fit the bill.

So with that as my goal, I took to the community forums on Bungie’s website. Sure enough, there were a number of threads posted by other like-minded Guardians and within a matter of minutes, we had a full six-player team ready to go.

We cut through the raid like butter, laughing and joking with one another pretty much the whole way through. The only time we really had to shut up and get serious was during the final boss, where callouts of enemy positions and other status effects became paramount. It took us a few attempts to get everything right, and at one point we lost a member of our Fireteam to his out-of-game responsibilities. So while we all took a five-minute break, I invited another player I’d met on a different raid a few days ago to join us. He did, and after one or two more attempts, the final boss of the Wrath of the Machine raid lay dead at my feet for the first time.

But as high a point as this was, it wasn’t the true highlight of the night for me.

That point came after the raid, where the six of us gathered together in one of the game’s three social spaces to try and gain an achievement which (according to our consoles) only 1.84% of Xbox Destiny players had actually unlocked. It was an odd activity that involved ringing a series of hidden bells in a specific order with specific timing, and yet just as the final boss in Wrath of the Machine had fallen to us, so to did this challenge. We got our achievement, we sang the Iron Song, and after we celebrated, we at last went our separate ways.

Most of us anyway.

The other player I had invited and I continued to hang out in the social space, and while I decided to climb the mountain that lay at the back of it, our conversations drifted away from the game and towards our mutual, real-life interests. For well over an hour, we talked movies, technology, we told jokes, and even made a brief foray into politics. When we eventually logged off to get some sleep for the coming day, I realized that even in Destiny 1’s final hour, it was still connecting me to people I could easily see myself becoming friends with.


Let’s wind the clock back here a little bit.

When it comes to the Destiny player base, I’m almost as grizzled an ancient as you can find. I’ve been playing the game since the open beta that went live in July of 2014, two months before the full game would ship. I pre-ordered the game soon after, was one of countless Guardians who threw themselves into the fight against The Darkness on Day One, and I have had an intensely hate/love relationship with the game ever since.

I say hate/love because from Day One, and through pretty much all of Destiny’s first year, my relationship with the game was heavily weighted towards hate. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the fact that I’m a writer, I am very much a story-driven gamer. I love the level of interactivity that video games can bring to a story, and if a game doesn’t have a good one, it becomes much more difficult for me to play through it beginning to end. When Destiny first launched, to call its story abysmal would be to insult the horrors that live in the impenetrable black. I will never forget the frustration I felt when the first major character I encountered said that he could tell me of all the history that led up to my characters resurrection… but then never did. Nor will I forget the hair-pulling madness that came over me when another major character said “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.” And what made all of this so much worse was that Destiny’s developer, Bungie, basically set the standard to which I hold all other video game stories with Halo, their previous franchise. To this day, almost exactly three years later, I struggle to articulate the soul-crushing disappointment I felt after completing Destiny 1’s paper-thin campaign.

But even after all that, I still kept playing.

“Why’s that,” you may ask?

Easy. I kept playing Destiny because the actual, moment-to-moment gameplay of it was just. that. good!

Seriously. Being able to seamlessly transition from running and gunning on the ground, to soaring through the air and blasting groups of enemies with massive energy bombs as a Warlock was just so viscerally satisfying that even now, no other game has come close to it. And when I started teaming up with my out-of-game friends to tackle our first Strike missions and the bosses therein, the synergy we found between the three different classes the game offered players was second to none. Combined with the amazingly satisfying core gameplay, the act of teaming together with other Guardians to take down foes that you couldn’t challenge otherwise turned Destiny into a singularly addictive grind for better and better loot.

So I kept playing. Even though there were still parts of me that hated this game to their core for its unparalleled failure of storytelling.

But then, on September 15th, 2015, everything changed.

Bungie released Destiny: The Taken King.

Though this was technically the third expansion Bungie had released for Destiny 1, it was the first one that truly caught my attention and excited me for the possibilities it presented. Not just for all the new content it offered, but for the changes it was making to all of the old content. Heeding the complaints of the player base, Bungie implemented a proper questing system into the game, finally tying all of the disparate story missions together with proper narrative threading. This “Questification” of the base game finally turned Destiny 1 into the kind of game I had hoped it would be at launch, and playing through it all again on a fresh character remains one of my fondest memories of it.

This was the point that I truly fell in love with Destiny, and at the suggestion of one now-famous Wizard, I began exploring the larger community that had sprung up around it.

Before Destiny, I didn’t even know Twitch was a thing. Let alone that it was already so big that people were making their livings off of it. CaptainTwaz suggested I check out KingGothalion, which led to me discovering ProfessorBroman on my own, followed by Soliferum, TheSpazzyProf, 3vil_Aura, Angry_Iceberg, and so many other awesome streamers. And the more time I spent in their respective channels, the more I learned that these weren’t just great entertainers, they were also just flat-out great people. So I started chatting with them, and with other people who were watching them at the same time. Before I knew it, hanging out in Destiny’s Twitch directory became just as big a part of my experience of the game as actually playing the game was.

I even started dabbling streaming Destiny myself; going live for the first time during one of the game’s monthly “Iron Banner” events that I jokingly referred to as “Game of Thorns”, owing to the near-ubiquitous presence of the poisonous hand cannon at the time. CaptainTwaz was even kind and generous enough to whip up some Game of Thrones­-inspired artwork for the occasion!

game-of-thorns-SOFAR

(I still love this image)

Still, as fun of an experiment that was, I didn’t feel any particular drive to keep streaming once the Iron Banner that month was over.

Until nearly a year later, when the Destiny Community Convention charity stream went live.

To this day, even in the wake of GuardianCon 2017, I’m still blown away by how much the Destiny community came together to accomplish that week. I’ve told my version of that story before, so I won’t repeat it at length here, except to say that watching the community raise more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the tipping point for me. That was the point where I had to become more involved in the community. That was the point where I was no longer content to just sit back and be a passive observer; I had to really dig my hands in and become an active contributor. I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much without even knowing it, and so I made two choices:

1) I was going to start streaming for real instead of as a passing curiosity.

And 2) I was going to go to the next Destiny Community Convention.

These two choices would wind up changing my entire life over the course of the next year. I got a job at the local grocery store (the first real 9-5 job I’d ever had), which pushed me so far beyond my mental and physical comfort zones that my close friends and family still occasionally comment on how much of a change for the better they’ve seen in me as a person. I’m more outgoing, more confident, and I say hi and smile to strangers where previously I would generally bow my head and look away. I even flew cross-country for only the second time in my life, and the first time where I was by myself and not meeting family at the airport on the other side. And I did, in fact, attend the second Destiny Community Convention.

Or GuardianCon, as it is now known.

Again, I’ve told my GuardianCon story before, but it bears repeating that it more than anything else I’ve written about thus far, was a truly life-changing experience. Finally getting to meet all the streamers & designers I’d been talking and gaming with online for nearly two years in person was a truly surreal experience, and it made GuardianCon feel less like a gaming convention and more like a gigantic family reunion. And when that feeling combined with the overwhelming rush of emotions that came with seeing a real St. Jude’s patient and his family walk up onto the main stage to tell their story, that was the moment where I knew I’d finally found my place in the world. I’d finally found where I belonged, and as someone who has gone through their whole life by flying under the radar and skating around the edges as the perpetual outsider, there will never be words for how powerful a feeling that was for me.

And all of this came about through a single, stupid video game that I actually hated for a year.

A video game called Destiny.


I don’t know what the future holds for the Destiny community with the release of Destiny 2, but I do know that I am excited beyond words for its potential. A new game with new mechanics means new players, as well as the return of old ones. It means new content for my fellow streamers and I to explore with our audiences, and it means new experiences for us all to share as a community.

But perhaps most importantly for me personally, it means a new beginning. As a Twitch streamer, it took me a very long time to find my footing on the platform, and I played a lot of games across both console and PC before I did. I found it in a certain game’s open console beta back in July, and I found it again when that same game launched another open beta on PC.

I found it in Destiny 2.

There is so much of that game that already feels like home to me. The competitive experience in the multiplayer Crucible has been re-tooled considerably, bringing it far more in line with other competitive shooters that I’ve played and enjoyed, and the story campaign in just one mission had more plot and character development than the entirety of Destiny 1’s base game. And this is all without mentioning the new raid that will be coming out just a week after launch!

To say that I’m excited for Destiny 2 would be to speak the gravest of understatements, but I’ll speak it anyway just to say that I am so excited to share this next leg of my Destiny journey with all of you, starting right here tomorrow at 10AM Pacific Time. I hope to see you there, and I can’t wait to see what new stories and adventures Destiny 2 holds in store for us! 🙂

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Reflections of a Guardian: GuardianCon 2017

It feels… tacky, for lack of a better word, to describe an event as “life-changing” before you’ve had a chance to actually live your life after it, yet I still can’t think of any words that describe my experience at GuardianCon 2017 better than those two. Because I can already feel the change, the drive, that little extra “oomph” taking hold in both my heart and my mind, and I know myself well enough to know that this feeling is the signal of something much greater than momentary excitement. I know that because it’s the same kind of feeling I had at the end of last year’s GuardianCon charity stream, and that feeling drove me to actually change my life.

So really, maybe it’s not so tacky.

Let’s back up a bit: prior to GuardianCon 2016, I was 26 years old, living with my mother, didn’t have a job, and had basically never worked a normal job, period. I had my reasons for all this, but the point of sharing this is to say that regardless of the reasons, that was the state of my life when the first GuardianCon charity stream went live. Thanks to CaptainTwaz’s suggestions and encouragement, I’d already become familiar with the Destiny community on Twitch, so I knew what this charity stream was all about well in advance: The streamers involved were going to try and raise $200,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the course of a week-long, 24-hour a day marathon stream as a way to not only build hype for the convention, but to use that hype for the benefit of a worthy cause.

What I and basically everyone else didn’t know was just how powerful that hype would get, and how quickly that hype would get there.

By only the third or fourth day of the charity marathon, that original $200,000 goal had been utterly annihilated, and the goal was then bumped up to $350,000. A goal that, once again, the Destiny community absolutely destroyed. By the time the marathon was actually over, the community had raised over $500,000. That’s over half-a-MILLION dollars, raised by gamers; a group of people that society has been all too happy to dismiss and demonize as a bunch of lazy, maladjusted, basement-dwelling, socially inept pizza-gluttons that would never amount to anything. That kind of universal disdain seeps into your mind and colors your thoughts no matter how far removed you may be from that stereotype in reality, and watching my fellow gamers prove just how disastrously wrong that stereotype is lit a fire in my heart that I had never felt before.

I realized then that I needed to be a more active member of this community. For me personally, it wasn’t enough to be a lurker or a chatter anymore. I had to do more, I had to be more, I had to contribute more. I had to give just as much back to this community as it had just given me by so spectacularly shattering that gamer stereotype.

I had to become a streamer, but more importantly, I had to make it down for the next GuardianCon.

Regardless of whatever it would take to get there.

And so, just a few weeks after I started streaming, I got my first real job: working as a courtesy clerk for my local grocery store. It wasn’t particularly fun, and it certainly wasn’t glamorous, but my co-workers were legitimately cool people, and I was getting up and out of the house and active in ways that I hadn’t been before. I lost over twenty pounds just by virtue of doing my job and walking around all day. My shyness and severe dislike of interacting with strangers melted away, and my self-confidence rose to levels far higher than they’d ever been before.

In every way that mattered, I felt like I was finally becoming the version of myself that I’d always wanted to be.

All because of GuardianCon 2016.

Which brings us to today: one year later. It’s the first morning after GuardianCon 2017, and the things I’m feeling in my heart are so much more powerful than what I felt after the GuardianCon 2016 charity stream. It’s that same, almost physical need to do something more than I am, only amplified because things aren’t just relegated to computer screen in someone’s office.

Things are now, for want of a better word, real.

Coming to GuardianCon and being able meet people in person, so many of whom I’ve looked up to and admired as examples and inspirations as a streamer, was an experience that was powerful in ways that defy description. When a streamer recognizes you as a name in chat, that’s one thing. But when that same streamer physically shakes your hand and then pulls you into a hug after hearing who you are, that’s something else entirely.

And that’s how virtually all of my streamer-meetings went.

From Angry_Iceberg at the pre-convention WingHouse meet up, through Vibronium and 3vil_Aura towards the end of the first convention day, and every other awesome person in between (ThatTokenGuy, Imqulse, StarlordCap, Jadahawk, and ReleaseTheGamerGirl? I’m lookin’ at all of you!), all those meetings and hugs really drove home the unique point that one of GuardianCon’s founders, King Gothalion, made during a video interview about the convention. “Community means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”

In more ways than I was prepared for, coming to GuardianCon felt like coming to a gigantic family reunion.

And perhaps explicitly because of that feeling, the reality of the charity half of GuardianCon hit me that much harder. I was not at all expecting an actual St. Jude representative, let alone the Vice President of Communications, to speak at the convention. Nor was I at all expecting or prepared for an actual St Jude patient and his family to make an appearance on that same stage to tell their story. You can talk numbers until you’re blue in the face; when you’re in the same room with a real person that the charity you’re helping to support took care of, and you’re listening to them tell their story, it drives home the flesh-and-blood reality of it all in manner that I don’t even think it’s possible to brace yourself for. I was on the verge of tears for almost the entire length of that speaking event, and that only made me double and then triple-down on my commitment to simply be the Light I so often find myself looking for out in the world.

Because my ultimate take-away from attending GuardianCon was the following:

This is where I truly want to be, this is the work that I truly want to be doing, and this is the community I truly want to be a part of.

This where I belong.

I’ve never felt that before, and feeling it now takes the flames I felt at the end of last year’s charity marathon and turns them into a wildfire. A wildfire whose Light I intend to channel through both my writing and my streaming so that I can use both to help others find their own way through the Darkness.

Because that’s what being a part of this community, what being a Guardian, means to me.

#LittleLights

Controllers: My Triumphant Return to Destiny

You know, it’s kinda funny. I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for nearly a week. Yet now that I’ve actually found the time to put fingers to keyboard, I don’t know what to write. 😛

So, failing a subtle introduction, let’s just dive right in!

I doubt it will be a revelation for many of you, but the first game I ever streamed on Twitch was Destiny. Pretty much everything about Twitch for me can trace it’s origin back to this game in some form or another.  It was how I even discovered Twitch in the first place! And it was the community on Twitch that has sprung up around Destiny that inspired me to start streaming the game myself.

However, if you’ve been following me for any length of time on Twitch, you’ll know I didn’t stick with Destiny for very long. And the reason for that is very simple: I’d caught myself trying to be something/someone I’m not. At the time, my only frame of reference for being a streamer were the rock stars like KingGothalion and ProfessorBroman, so I thought the only way to be entertaining on Twitch and amass any kind of audience was to be like them.

Turns out, trying to constantly be someone you’re not is an exhausting undertaking; one that will suck out all the joy and love you once had for something.

The end of this chapter will not surprise you; I stopped streaming Destiny. I realized that if I were ever going to make anything of myself on Twitch, I first had to figure out who I even was as a streamer. Where did my energy level naturally land? How well could I actually balance interacting with chat and playing the game? How much did I want to interact with chat on a moment-to-moment basis? There were a lot of questions that I needed to find answers to, and the only way I could find those answers was by playing other games.

So I started small, and simple. I took a game off my shelf that I’d never played through to completion and decided to start streaming it. That would give me the excuse I needed to finish the game itself, and give me a chance to find my footing as a streamer without the pressure of expectation bearing down on my shoulders. That game was Alien: Isolation, and streaming it proved to be a wonderful experience. I was able to just relax, breathe, be myself, and most importantly of all, actually enjoy the game I was playing.

And to my immense surprise, people actually started watching!

To be clear, it wasn’t like there was no one watching me play Destiny, but in a very real sense, that wasn’t me playing Destiny. That was me acting like I was playing Destiny. With Alien: Isolation, that was pure, 100% me playing the game, and more people were tuning in for that than they ever had with Destiny. That was the moment when I discovered that I really did want to be a Twitch streamer, independent of whatever game I was streaming, and that discovery is what prompted me to take the next big step.

Streaming from a PC.

Up to this point, I’d been streaming straight off my Xbox One. While it was entirely functional, I wasn’t able to have all the same bells and whistles that attract me as a viewer on Twitch. That meant no overlays, no alerts, no nothing. Those were things I could only get by streaming from a PC. So I saved up some money, did my research, and eventually rebuilt my computer almost from top-to-bottom in order to transform it into a dedicated gaming/streaming machine. After that, the only question left was “What game do I stream now?”

The answer, as many of you know, proved to be Mass Effect.

With Mass Effect: Andromeda then on the horizon, and the franchise in general being one of my all-time favorites in the gaming world, streaming the first three games felt like an absolute no-brainer. And in practice, streaming the original Mass Effect trilogy proved to be an overwhelmingly” positive experience. One that resulted in this blog post. However, moving on to Mass Effect: Andromeda as my stream game of choice has revealed a problem for me that I hadn’t anticipated.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a social game. Not for me.

I was able to make the original trilogy a social game because I was already so familiar with it. I already knew everything there was to know about the characters and the story, I already knew how I was going to play said story, and so that made it both easy and fun to share my gameplay with all of you. With Mass Effect: Andromeda, I don’t have the luxury of pre-existing knowledge, and that’s made it difficult for me to stream it with the same energy and enthusiasm that I felt I was able to bring to my streams of the original trilogy.

Now, by itself, this is not an insurmountable issue, and a potential solution has already presented itself to me. However, this issue is not by itself. As of March 28th, it’s been joined by it’s bigger, badder, and older brother: Destiny. 

Prior to Bungie’s release of the Age of Triumph update, I hadn’t played Destiny at all in ages. Not since the first month or so of the Rise of Iron DLC. But when I learned all of what Bungie was doing with Age of Triumph, I knew I had to at least give it a shot.

I was not prepared for what happened next.

I fell hard for Destiny; head-over-heels back in love with a game that I’ve been playing since the open beta. In just over an hour, I was reminded of all the reasons I had grown to love the game so fiercely, and why I’ve kept coming back to it over and over again no matter how many times I drifted away. And thanks to joining in on a viewer raid with Angry_Iceberg, I was reminded of why I wanted to start streaming the game in the first place.

The community.

The Destiny community on Twitch is second to none. Truly. When I stop to think about how many amazing people I’ve connected with through it, I legitimately get a little choked up. To say nothing of the truly mind-boggling charity work the community has done! Raising more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital? Mind blowing. This community is the reason I’ve been saving every penny I can spare to go to Florida for GuardianCon at the end of June. This community is the reason I ever even thought about becoming a Twitch streamer, and this community is why I’m writing this blog post.

Because I’m going back to Destiny.

People always say that home is where the heart is, and for me on Twitch, that’s the Destiny directory. I love Mass Effect to Andromeda and beyond, but at the end of the day, there’s just no getting around the fact that Destiny is my home. And after so much time on such a lovely vacation, I’m ready to go back home.

So, this is me, announcing my return to the world of Destiny streaming in WAY more than 140 characters. I don’t know exactly when this return will take place, as it will require a significant change/addition to my current streaming setup, but it will take place. And for those of you fearing for the future of this author’s adventures in Andromeda, fear not. I will be doing a complete playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda on stream, but that will likely take place after I go through the campaign once myself for the full-immersion, role-playing experience that makes the Mass Effect franchise so much fun for me.

I know this is a pretty big shake-up for my Twitch channel, but I hope you all will bear with me as we go through it. Streaming Destiny was always my end-goal on Twitch; I just always thought I wouldn’t reach that goal until Destiny 2 came out. 😛

Speaking of which, have you guys seen that reveal trailer?! 😀