Let’s look back at the Next-Gen launch a few years ago. Among the many themes, social gaming was chief and we were ready for it. Sure, we had headsets on the older consoles and we could play with, or against people online, but Next-Gen was really going to develop that social bond we share in the gaming universe.
It was all a bit of an experiment, or more so, what Sony and Microsoft thought gaming should be, what people wanted it to be. Apart from being able to share your gameplay over Facebook, games started being created to envelop the social aspect rather than individual play and I think we’re now in a position to see if that experiment paid off.
All on black
Facebook tells me that it’s now just over a year since Destiny launched on PS4 and Xbox One. I know this because I posted an image from my PS4 of the installing screen at the time. Pretty much every game has tried to tap into the social aspect of gaming, even some that have never tried it before, like Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but Destiny was the big one. Not only because it was pushed back time and again but because it was made by Bungie (when you have Halo in your portfolio, people expect big things), the beta was pretty mind blowing and the previews had pretty much every author wetting themselves with excitement.
So, a year on, is Destiny the huge social world we were expecting and hoping for? A lot of my friends from work would say yes. Seriously, it’s all they talk about. There’s a group of around five of them that regularly take part in raids in the evenings, then discuss the spoils of war the next day. Just today, one of them was telling me how he’s racked up over 12 days’ worth of time on it. So for them, it’s been a huge success.
I didn’t want to play anyway
Personally, as I’ve probably written before, I’m on the other side of the fence. There was a group of us that started playing through it together and to start with, it was pretty fun. One memory that will stick with me throughout my gaming existence was The Summoning Pits on The Moon. It was the first raid we’d attempted, and to start with, it was frustrating as hell. I was a few levels below the others and we probably failed about seven times in a row, and that’s an under-exaggeration. The final one though, when we managed to take Phogoth down, was completely exhilarating.
That was probably the last time we properly played Destiny together though. With a mixture of busy lives, partners to spend time with and a lack of motivation, that exhilaration we felt was short lived. After that, playing through the story mode made the game feel a bit tedious. There were only so many times I could be bothered to protect my ghost against swarms of enemies, even if he was voiced by Peter Dinklage.
That leads me nicely into a conversation I had in work today with one of the group that loves the game and another friend with the same experience as me. All agreed that the story mode was pretty tedious but the over-riding agreement, naturally, was that you need a group, a solid group that play together regularly, to really enjoy the game. It’s a pretty obvious argument to make so I’m not expecting a prize for innovative writing but it does beg a question.
If, as a nation and a society, we’re leading busier lives, do we really have the time to invest in the type of social gaming that Destiny demands? How long until you don’t switch on for a few nights and the rest of your group are a number of levels above you? How long until it starts becoming a chore?
Time is of the essence
I suppose, when thinking about the experiment that Destiny embodies, social gaming, it really depends on your lifestyle, your motivations and what you’re in the mood for. For me, I’m in the phase where I just want to turn on my console and pick up where I left off on whatever game I’m playing. At the moment, that’s Arkham Knight and there’s no pressure on me to support a group, or level up enough to be able to compete with other gamers. I can play it at my own leisure, in my own time and I can enjoy it. For me, that’s what gaming is about. For others, it’s about the type of gaming that Destiny offers.
I suppose there isn’t really an answer. Games like Destiny will always exclude people from really enjoying what the game offers but I don’t think those people are all that bothered by that. In essence, it’s up to the developers to decide what type of game they want to make and take that risk. There will be a lot of people that don’t enjoy it, but likewise, a lot of people that will. If you can bring that much joy to even half of the gaming community, surely that’s a success in itself.
Just to finish off and slightly off topic, writing this reminded me of my early high school years. There was a group of five of us and pretty much every Saturday, we’d go my mate’s house and play multi-player Goldeneye for hours. Unfortunately, that was how we got involved in social gaming back in 1999. It involved petrol, disgruntled parents having to host or give you lifts, and plenty of crisps.