Strength of the Wolf: Gaming & Friendship

It’s the fall of 2017. Destiny has been the only disc in my Xbox One for months. The Iron banner event has landed in the Tower once again, Lord Saladin is ready to reward Guardians who fight to victory if only they will lock arms and engage in fierce battle in the Crucible.

While I’m very much a casual gamer, this is one of my favorite ways to spend free time. It’s a privilege to play games with friends. The few folks who have shared their evenings with me over the years are some of my closest. That’s one reason that I always loved Iron Banner, because it is both a great short-term experience and also reminds me of my favorite Destiny expansion so far: The Rise of Iron

Blood for Blood

I was going through a rough season when Rise of Iron shipped. Work was super rough and the stresses were pretty extreme at times. Family is and will always be the first line of defense against invading threats to my sanity, but after they went to bed, every now and then, I scraped together time and energy to venture out into virtual space.

The visuals helped to provide an escape from some awful situations IRL, the gameplay was top notch, and the rich history of Guardians who have gone before us made for a compelling story to unwind. I listened to the soundtrack – no joke – every single day for at least a month, maybe more.

I don’t usually have a lot of time to play video games – that autumn season found me with even less free time than normal, but something about this game kept drawing me back.

The key was seeing that it had nothing to do with the game itself: Destiny is just really great at bringing people together, which was what I needed most at that time.

I have spent a lot of time with some of my closest friends exploring what Bungie has created over the years. Say what you will about Destiny, like it or don’t, I have had a blast since 2014 because I can jump in and enjoy some time hanging out with great people.

Power Overwhelming

In my opinion, Rise of Iron was specifically tailored to value the strength of the pack by first evaluating the strengths of each wolf. One of my favorite medals in the entire game was found in this setting: “Strength of the Wolf” could be yours if you managed to topple enough opponents without losing anyone on your team.

Destiny provides a lot of hero moments – especially back in the Rise of Iron days – but this medal focused on the success of the entire pack, not the qualities or performance of each individual player.

It made you think differently about how your own moments played into a larger picture of victory. You’d think twice about nabbing power ammo from someone on your team because you were genuinely considering whether they would use it more effectively. The grind for rewards was based on the survival of the entire pack, which tended to supersede one’s own desire to feel powerful. The group victory has always felt more important to me than whether I hit every shot perfectly.

It’s probably a little unpopular to talk about video games as a pass/fail based solely on those team opportunities, but that is my favorite thing about playing games, especially Destiny.

Never In Doubt

After a while, I fell into a bad habit of checking Destiny Tracker to review my K/D after each session. I was focusing on a small metric that didn’t really tell the whole story, especially when you consider that there are many different strengths involved in what defines success beyond pure kills/deaths.

More importantly: I realized that I was, “chasing the bullseye” instead of actually measuring valuable progress toward a more important goal. I made a commitment to not check for several weeks, focusing instead on the time spent with friends enjoying the game, not the stats.

It’s a privilege to spend time with friends playing games. I want to take the time that I am spending on these extracurricular pursuits and use them as more than just investments into my own personal escapism. I want that investment to mean more, to reap benefits beyond pure enjoyment, to have a purpose beyond my own sense of having fun.

In short: I want my gaming sessions to bring me closer to my friends, not further from my problems.

Wrecking Crew

In my opinion, true victory is found by focusing on the pack, not the wolf. Everyone should be doing their best to support the team and have a great time because it is something you do together. That mindset allows you to celebrate wins and hero moments without becoming focused on what makes one individual person or play the greatest thing since sliced bread.

It’s a privilege to spend time with friends playing games.

Fast-forward to the fall of 2018. A new Destiny expansion is on the horizon, just one week away. “Forsaken” looks like it will easily eclipse Rise of Iron in terms of quality, story, and required teamwork.

This excites me for many reasons, but mostly because there are rich lands to explore with friends once again. Destiny is a game that brings people together – we should always remember that the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.