A couple of weeks ago, I had to get a root canal. Contrary to everything I had been led to believe, it was not at all painful. It was, however, very boring. Or at least, it would have been had I not loaded up an audiobook on my phone — Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress — and happily listened while the endodontist scraped all of the living matter out of the inside of my poor molar. I didn’t finish the whole thing there, so I’ve been working through it this weekend. And when I sat down earlier today to play some Destiny 2, I figured I’d put it on while I worked on my Season Pass.
The problem with slash attraction of live games like Destiny is that they offer an eternal grind. There’s always some Exotic to chase, some armor to upgrade, some triumph to complete. When I’m doing any of these things with friends, it’s a blast. The gameplay is so well-tuned that it feels like just hanging out and playing cards. When I play Destiny on my own, I can still appreciate this quality — it’s a nice way to turn my brain off at the end of a work day, like playing Solitaire. But I also always feel a little uneasy, like I could be playing something new, reading, or basically doing anything else.
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Putting an audiobook on meant that I was doing something else — listening to a novel. And while “multitasking” is a myth, I didn’t really need to pay full attention to Destiny because most of the game doesn’t even have true fail states. And because the game has become so familiar to me, I was able to fully take in the adventures of Easy Rawlins — or, this weekend, the misadventures of the narrator in John Preston’s gay erotica classic Mr. Benson.
Could I be knitting, or drawing, or doing something more “productive” while I’m listening to an audiobook? I guess so. But even if I weren’t making progress on quests and my Season Pass, Destiny is just something pleasantly distracting for my hands to do while listening. That I’m knocking out bounties and picking up gear is almost a side benefit to being regaled with the lesbian panic vampire story Carmilla.
It’s a little amusing to me that I’m using Destiny 2, an action-heavy first-person shooter, as a distraction to take in another story. But I think this easy grind is an underappreciated aspect of live games that makes them at times more similar to mobile puzzle games than to the adrenaline-fueled competitive titles they resemble. Am I saying Destiny is boring? Not at all. But the downtime it affords for longtime players in-between Raids and other high-level activities is perfect for chilling out, blasting some Taken, and listening to an audiobook.