A Philosopher's Blog

Destiny as an Imperfect Metaphor for Life

Posted in Video Games by Michael LaBossiere on November 3, 2014

Having played Bungie’s mega-hyped, mega-criticized, and mostly-popular game Destiny, I have decided that it is an imperfect metaphor of life in America.

In Destiny, you start off with very little—which is true of most of us in America. After the initial start, your character goes to the Tower—a place that rises high above the earth and is ruled by an elite group of folks. Those in charge have the nice stuff, although by working endlessly you can acquire a few items from them. Just like in life, these folks stay safe from danger while sending other people into harm’s way and to repeatedly grind away at tasks in order to earn status and currency.

The tasks, which are called bounties and patrols in the game, are rather like the work most of us do: repetitive and with fairly lackluster rewards. There is also a game story which rather matches how life is for most folks: you go and do various repetitive tasks while being bossed about by middle management. You have no real idea what you are doing, why you are doing it, or how it fits in the big picture. In essence, you are just doing stuff for the people who are commanding things from the Tower—be it the tower in Destiny, or the towers of power in real life.

Destiny, as all players of the game will attest, has an annoying loot/reward system. The main annoyance is that the rewards generally have no connection to the skill, performance or efforts of the players. Rather, getting a reward is mostly a matter of luck. For example, one player can excel at a player versus player (PVP) match and get nothing, while the worst player walks away with randomly gifted legendary items. As I have written in another essay, life is rather like this as well—success is not so much a matter of skill and effort, but of luck. Destiny really drives this lesson home.

This is not to say that hard work and skill do not pay off at all. As with life, if you have some measure of skill and you are willing and able to “grind” (that is, repeat tasks over and over and over and over) you can earn some measure of success. In Destiny, you slowly accumulate currency (marks) and reputation by such grinding and via these efforts you can get some of the good stuff.

As a metaphor for life, Destiny is imperfect. To be specific, there are aspects of Destiny that are not at all like life in America. I do not, of course, mean the obvious differences (like the fact that we are not overrun with the Fallen, Hive and Cabal). Rather, there are less obvious differences.

The first is that all players start out equal—this is totally unlike real life. The second is that although characters can be of different races and be male or female, race and gender do not matter. You do not get less pay from the bounties if you are a woman or if you are a different race. This is completely unlike real life.

The third is that skill and effort always pay off—while it does take time to grind, you will eventually get rewards. Life is, of course, not like this.


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