Recently I started watching the anime Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, and soon found myself becoming so enveloped in the world of the game that we see in the anime, Gun Gale Online (GGO), that I had wished there was a game similar to GGO to actually play. I’ve played MMOs for the majority of my life, and they’ve always been an excellent escape for me, but most of the MMOs I find take place in a fantasy-esque world. One with dragons, fairies, and magic. I wanted the nitty-gritty world of Gun Gale Online, where there’s nothing but rust; bullets; and destroyed, torn apart buildings falling down around you.
There are plenty of online FPSs out there, but I didn’t just want to go around shooting at other players in quick-match games, I wanted an actual world. One where I could explore, meet others, and experience things happening around me. What I eventually landed upon is this gem, Destiny 2.
While the atmosphere is a little more sci-fi than I initially hoped for, offering things such as spaceships; space suits; robots; and travel between different planets, Destiny 2 still managed to satisfy the craving I had developed.
The game offers a pretty vast universe, with a multitude of worlds and areas to explore - each offering their own unique setting and feel, many of which offer that more robust, less fantastical appeal that GGO left me wanting to immerse myself within. The first main planet you get access to is Earth, which is now in ruins and is one of my favorites for this reason. Being able to see the destruction of everything as you explore the broken cities give off the aura of despair I wanted to find in an MMO for that nice change of pace.
As I progressed beyond Earth from doing the main story, traveling from planet to planet, I often found myself getting distracted and just zoning out while shooting aliens to relax. It may seem strange, but it was rather therapeutic sitting on top of a hill and just randomly fighting enemies with no clear goal. Though, what really put the icing on the cake during these moments was that I wasn’t the only one doing this. I’d find several players in each zone doing the same thing I was. I even met a couple of friends doing exactly that, and now when I log in it’s a joy to see them and something I look forward to.
We’ll usually start off by doing some actual content, such as The Crucible, which is the PvP arena of the game; or maybe a strike, which are the raids of the game; but after awhile, we get burnt out and just go talk and have an enjoyable conversation or ask each other for real-world advice while shooting down some baddies. While this isn’t necessarily anything exclusive to Destiny 2, it was a nice change of pace for me.
It feels reminiscent of when the protagonist of GGO, Llenn, meets another player by the name of Pitohui for the first time in GGO. She finds herself lost in the world, listening to music and just relaxing inside of the game when eventually Pitohui shows up and the two of them become rather close friends and end up sitting around PKing on a daily basis while chatting it up.
When I play Final Fantasy XIV, or really any fantasy MMO, I’ll find myself having these endearing conversations, sure, but they’re generally at a player’s house or in a major city where we aren’t doing anything else and often even take place before any content was completed. The combat just starts to feel like more of a chore than anything relaxing and starts to only become enjoyable when doing some of the more challenging content - which often takes days of planning around and a lot of energy that can be hard to muster up after a long night.
For this reason, it sometimes feels to me as though many MMOs become nothing more than just a social hub for a large number of players. I think with Destiny 2, this is less likely to happen due to the simple yet engaging nature of the combat, being an open world FPS. It doesn’t require much energy to get at least something done, which I think gives some encouragement to play the game for a bit before just sitting around and talking. I personally love this, as it leaves me feeling as though I at least accomplished something within the game rather than wasting what little free time I have. Being an FPS, you also don’t see your character all that often in Destiny 2, which is another factor that I believe makes Destiny 2 more of a playable experience than just a social hub. As much I’ve always loved making and customizing a character to be my own, the lack of appearance customizations mixed with the first person camera makes it easier to be more focused on the world and care more about playing the game than expressing yourself.
Thinking back to what caused me to start this game in the first place, I start to sometimes feel silly and even childish. Wanting a place to escape reality based off of some show I saw certainly doesn't feel very adult-like. But then I start to realize that's what so many forms of entertainment media focus around. I start to remember that this isn’t the first time I’ve been influenced by another form of media. I had watched a show way back called .hack//SIGN and was so fascinated by the concept of an MMORPG, that I eventually landed upon Runescape and have spent over a decade since getting lost in these immersive worlds. If that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have met so many of the amazing people in my life now. Besides, who cares how silly it seems how we relieve our stress in our free time?
Afterall, think back to how many games you’ve picked up as a kid simply because they’re based on a movie or book that you enjoyed at the time. I can’t help but wonder what will influence me next, and now when I meet a player in one of these games I start to wonder, “What lead you here?”