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!
(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! 🙂