[Video Games 101] What is Destiny?

Posted by | June 01, 2015 | Tips for Parents | 2 Comments

This post is part of a series that addresses the needs of the parent who “just doesn’t get video games.” We’re here to catch you up, Clueless Parent!

Just so there’s no confusion—we’re not talking about “destiny” in the sense of fate or the future. No! Today we’re talking about the blockbuster game Destiny. What is Destiny? It’s a science-fiction (sci-fi) massively multiplayer online (MMO) shooter. Let’s start with where Destiny came from.

Origin of Destiny

Bungie, the developer of Destiny, was founded in 1991 by Alex Seropian. He was a college student at the time. Bungie experienced reasonable success making games (mostly for Macintosh computers) throughout the ’90s. Bungie’s most successful franchises during this time were Myth and Marathon.  Myth is a fantasy real-time strategy game. Marathon is a sci-fi first-person shooter. In 1999, Bungie was working on a new third-person shooter for the Macintosh called Halo. Before it could be released, though, Bungie was acquired by Microsoft. Halo was reworked as the killer app for Microsoft’s first gaming console, the Xbox. In the process, Halo became a high-budget first-person shooter.

The Halo franchise became immensely popular. To date, Microsoft has sold nearly 50 million copies. New Halo games are still coming out. In 2007, Bungie split off from Microsoft and became an independent company. In 2010, the last Halo game developed by Bungie (Halo: Reach) was released. Development of new Halo games was handed over to 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft.

After the release of Halo: Reach, no one really knew what Bungie was working on next. But the new game was eagerly anticipated by their very large and enthusiastic fanbase. When Destiny was announced as Bungie’s next project, a lot of people got excited.

Destiny was released in September 2014.

Destiny’s Setting & Story

Destiny is set in the far future, after humanity has experienced a Golden Age of space exploration. Humans have been beaten back to a single city on Earth by a mysterious alien force known only as the Darkness. The player is told that humankind was nearly exterminated by the Darkness before being saved by another mysterious alien force known as the Traveler. However, the Traveler had only enough power to do two things before going dormant. The Traveler shielded humanity’s last city from harm and created Ghosts.

Ghosts are sentient AIs that are housed in little floating eye-like robots. A Ghost’s mission seems to be to locate the corpses of people who can wield “Light” (a mysterious energy that ostensibly comes from the Traveler) and resurrect them.

The Ghost AIs in Destiny look like this.

The Ghost AIs in Destiny look like this.

These resurrected people are known as Guardians. The Ghost follows its Guardians everywhere helping them complete missions that benefit the Traveler and humanity. (The Ghosts mostly resurrect Guardians whenever they die.) Destiny’s story starts when the player is resurrected by his or her Ghost. The Ghost is voiced by actor Peter Dinklage.

Players begin their fight against the forces of the Darkness. The Darkness consists of four different races of aliens. You don’t get much backstory on the evil aliens. You mostly just shoot them. Unfortunately, most people agree that Destiny’s story is pretty uninspired. It doesn’t really answer many of the questions that it introduces.

Destiny’s Gameplay

Most people agree that Destiny’s gameplay is extremely fun. First-person shooters are one of the most popular genres of video game on the market, so they’ve been done to death. Despite that, Destiny stands out for having somewhat unique mechanics outside of the usual point-and-shoot gameplay. It’s also just really well done in general. Not only that, but most of Destiny’s content can be experienced with friends. Much of the endgame content even requires help from other players. There is automated matchmaking for some game modes.

Thankfully, the conduct issues that seem to plague most online games don’t really seem to be as much of an issue in Destiny. You have to opt in to even hear voice chat in groups created through the game’s matchmaking. And most people don’t talk in these groups anyway. This is probably because all of the activities with matchmaking don’t really require the group to communicate. For more challenging activities that might require better group coordination, there is no matchmaking. A group of friends (or people that you find on the internet outside of Destiny’s framework) is required in order to tackle the highest tiers of Destiny’s content.

Destiny’s Popularity

There are a lot of shooter games out there, but few are available on both the PlayStation and Xbox. And few are rated T, as Destiny is. The T rating means that there’s no gore or red blood. These factors, plus the solid gameplay and the beautiful modern graphics, might explain why, after a somewhat rocky start, Destiny has become a popular game with a large user base.

For more information, check out our review of the game when it first came out and our review of the latest expansion (which fixed many of the game’s problems).

Chris Jaech

About Chris Jaech

Chris Jaech is a voice-over actor and writer. His voice-over work is featured in HER Interactive's video game Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy. He lives in Seattle.