I’m in a weird head space today, where I’m wanting to write about games and such but I haven’t turned on any of my consoles since the middle of last week. It’s not just that I’ve been busy, or out of town (both of which are true); it’s also simply that I’ve been exhausted. I’d thought about popping in Destiny for a little while last night, but the day had already run pretty long by the time I had access to the TV, and I ended up passing out before 9:00 pm. (Here’s an oft-repeated but still you-don’t-understand-until-it-happens-to-you truth about parenting: there is no such thing as sleeping in. At this point, I’d honestly consider waking up at 7:00 am a goddamned tropical vacation.)
And truth be told, I’m still in a weird head space about Destiny, too. I’m stuck at level 21 and by this point I’d imagine that most of the people on my PSN friends list are way beyond me; I was already 2-3 levels behind when I was playing on a regular basis, and by now I’m sure they’re at 27-29, which means that I can’t run strikes with them with any hope of being effective, and I’m afraid that they won’t bother running strikes with me unless they’re feeling extra generous with their time; I mean, why bother doing level 20 strikes when you can get better gear playing at your own level? This is why Destiny’s post-20 leveling system bums me out, at least when compared to Diablo 3 – I can take my level 70 Monk into a friend’s low-level game and still pick up decent gear at a steady clip (even if it’s all ultimately salvage), whereas in Destiny, even shooting at a Loot Cave for an hour doesn’t necessarily give you a strong return on your time investment.
And yet, given the absence of something else to play right now*, I still kinda want to jump in and play. Before I left this past weekend I’d manage to finish 2 of those limited-time Queen bounties, and I’d like to be able to do a few more (and maybe even cash in a Queen Mission) before the event closes. Even if I can’t get that far, though, there’s still a part of me that would like to be able to do a few strikes, hopefully get lucky with some drops, and gain a level or two before finally giving up in favor of the rest of the fall release schedule. There’s just enough in Destiny’s post-cap endgame that makes me want to stay engaged.
That said, a larger part of this pull I’m feeling is that Destiny is still what most of my gaming friends and the community at large are talking about. For better and/or worse, it’s dominated the Twitterverse ever since its release, and with each passing hour that I’m offline, I’m feeling further and further removed from the conversation.
As Patrick Klepek wrote in this weekend’s GB column, “Social Gaming and the Fear of Missing Out“:
With an hour to spare last week, I hopped online and started completing some bounties, one of the easiest ways to stack experience while playing. Two friends joined up, and helped me grind through what amounted to little more than fetch quests and shooting galleries for an hour. Even though our actions were hardly engaging, the act of doing them together was tremendous fun, if only a glorified chat room.
Once the bounties were cashed in, though, my friends were debating the next move. All of them were well past level 20, though, which meant the content I was playing through couldn’t help them meaningfully advance their equipment. Even though I was the party leader, I was the one who had to leave, forced to venture out on my own again. I hopped into a nearby strike, got myself assigned to a few random players, and went to it. We won. Some stuff dropped. But it wasn’t the same. There was only silence.
Granted, none of this is Destiny’s fault. To the contrary, it’s what Bungie wants, what these games thrive on. You could argue the existence of a loot vault, a void in which players shot mindlessly for hours, says more about what Destiny gets wrong than what it gets right. But that would be missing the point. These collective experiences, even when driven by exploitations of code, are entirely the point. These marks in time wouldn’t be possible in single-player. Individualized watercooler moments from the night discussed at the office the next day become shared experiences given more power from the group ownership.
I’ve been struggling with managing this Fear of Missing Out for a long time, I think. It’s probably the primary force behind this blog; if I can’t get paid to write about the games I play, well, I still want to play as much as I can and write about it and talk about it with other people who are in on the conversation. I love games, I love thinking about games, and when a game this huge is out and occupying so much of our collective brains, I want to be able to dive in to the conversation and contribute in a meaningful way. It’s no fun being on the outside looking in.
Ironically, it’s this same Fear of Missing Out that will make it a bit easier for me to pull myself away from Destiny once I get my hands on Shadow of Mordor, even if, due to Gamefly’s mailing schedule, I won’t get my hands on it until Thursday (and, because of family stuff, won’t get any meaningful playtime with it until next Monday night, post-Gotham). Hell, I’m even tempted to just say fuck it and order the digital version of SoM so I can at least get some quality time with it before I leave town this weekend.
It is what it is, I suppose. In the meantime I’ve got Clicker Heroes running in the background and I suppose the less said about that the better.
* Even given my aforementioned lack of free time and a relative shortage of expendable income, I nearly pulled the trigger on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter yesterday. But then I learned that there’s a PS4 version due next year. Now, my PC is a few years old and can make certain games look quite nice – and it passes the minimum specs according to Can You Run It? – but everything I’ve heard about VoEC is that it’s one of the most gorgeous games ever made. So as much as it hurts to wait, I’m tempted to hold out for the PS4 version, which I know will look better than what my PC can currently do. There’s no current date on the PS4 version beyond a vague “some point in 2015“, though, so you can probably guess that this will come down to a rigged coin flip.