When I was around eleven years old, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to take an old kickboard out of our pool toybox and strap a couple of lace-free shoes to it with duct tape in order to do flips over a hedge that separated two backyard trampolines. Sure, this could have caused some sort of paralysis-induced spinal injury if things went wrong, but trampolines were way cooler if you could do grabs in the air, man. The idea was that we would be able to double bounce the person with the board so high that they would fly over the five foot gap and seven foot hedge and land safely after doing some sort of nausea-inducing spin and/or flip.
Not since then have I felt such a weird compulsion to do something that I find to be stupid at a very basic level…until Destiny: The Taken King came along. You know, the forty dollar expansion to a game that I’ve been guilty about lambasting over the past twelve months…yet have continued to play.
Destiny is socially-connected first-person shooter loaded with utter gibberish, an endgame that feels downright nonsensical when looked at in a vacuum and a loot loop that feels about as closed as a horseshoe. The vast majority of the quest lines in both Vanilla Destiny and The Taken King feel like the lack that last little bit of instruction, and this leads to both a fair amount of repetition, grinding and general wandering. Over the last year, the way Activision and Bungie have treated paying customers toes the line between shady and gross, and yet millions have logged back in over and over in order to pull a trigger until shines fly into the air. Microtransactions are on the horizon, and while these are currently only limited to emotes, who’s to say that the flood gates won’t open in the near future? Even if you don’t own a copy, it currently is showing up on your PlayStation 4 dashboard in hopes that you will soon. The point is, Destiny should not be as popular as it is if there was any semblance of a consumer base whose majority voted its wallets. It’s a weird, weird video game with an even weirder development and marketing path.
For whatever reason though, it’s also deeply satisfying, inexplicable addictive and an easy way to eliminate all of your free time. This, my friends, is the great conundrum that surrounds this bizarre video game and social experiment. Usually when there is so much nonsense swirling around a game, it loses some semblance of credibility and popularity, but like America’s Heel, Donald Trump, Destiny finds a way to shrug off any and all criticism and blast its way to the bank. At the end of the day, do Activision and Bungie care that a great deal of gamers find their new flagship franchise to be total nonsense? Of course not, as there are millions of people opening up their wallets in hopes of getting that one Exotic everyone is talking about.
While I’m not personally a fan of one Donald Trump, there’s something captivating about the controlled train wreck that is his public persona. So many Americans will condemn the things that come out of this man’s mouth, yet oh so many more are there putting on his baseball caps and chanting his name. It’s a fascinating example of how the vocal minority can force its way into sounding like the overwhelming majority. The Americans getting behind Donald Trump are not the loud social commentators with thousands of Twitter followers, they’re just everyday people who like that someone is breaking the political mold for once. Perhaps this same principle applies to Destiny; even though it’s a game that has seen its fair share of crap flung its way (and, more recently, praise), there are people out there who simply don’t care about we, the games press, has to say.
If you’re a gambling man, you can take this to the bank: the vast majority of Destiny players are probably just everyday people who go to work or school, come home, put on a microphone and shoot aliens with their friends. They don’t care about discussions regarding level design or encounter design, they just log in and play the video game. Destiny is the one video game that makes me feel utterly stupid when I try to explain its hooks to anyone, yet here I am, trying to open 25 chests on the Dreadnaught in order to get enough Hadium Flakes to bring to the Tower in order to get my sword. This is a game that scratches a very specific itch, and while it’s pretty unclear what that itch is (outside of some sort of internal checklist we create while trying to get shiny things), it’s hard to deny it isn’t there. Destiny, thanks to The Taken King, is a good game now, but in many ways it’s still oh so dumb. At the end of the day, John Doe Video Gamer, you know, real driving force of the industry, doesn’t care about the bad. Again, he just wants to shoot things with his friends.
Bringing this back to our old friend Donald, there are so many people out there who don’t care that he’s said some downright repulsive things and been an occasionally poor sport. He’s different than everyone else, and at the end of the day, the sideshow that he creates fuels itself thanks to this very principle. Destiny, in the same way, hooks its players in with the promise of amazing content and then finds ways to pull off some downright awkward maneuvers (here’s looking at you Red Bull code kerfuffle) without anyone outside of the hardcore contingent batting an eye. After all, those outside of the vocal minority that seems to create all of the video game chatter on the Internet might not even know what a microtransaction is, or why they should care about the fact that the base $60 release was essentially devoid of content. Bungie and Activision haven’t, don’t and shouldn’t care about what folks like myself think about their addictive yet confusing shooter and its path to popularity. These two companies, much like Donald Trump, can simply look at the numbers and know that everything is going to be just fine.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and throw any semblance of shame or judgment in the trash so that I can feed guns to my better guns.