Big Picture Mode
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
Nathan Brown is clockingc in on more virtual jobs thanth ever
Here comes Destiny again, then, and with it goes a chunk of my life. My wife now understands that our evenings together have a fixed finish time so I can link up with the raid group without keeping everyone hanging around; I was 20 minutes late last night, and got the kind of reaction from the gang that you’d expect if you’d just needlessly messed up on the final boss for the 30th time in a row. Everyone has to agree on a time, working their actual lives around their virtual ones. All of us have commitments in the boring real world, and so punctuality in Destiny is in many ways as important as being able to shoot straight.
While I played the best part of 1,000 hours of Destiny, I haven’t had this sort of regular, nightly relationship with the game for a while. And so I’d sort of forgotten how it takes over; not just in terms of the withering glances I get from my wife when I tell her it’s Destiny time, or in the way I spend the day idly thinking about how strategies might be subtly refined. Committing to a game like this means following its schedule; doing things as they become available, or before they run out.
There’s a lot more to do in Destiny 2 than there was in its predecessor, so I’m still trying to work out how it’s all going to fit. But Tuesday’s the day of the weekly reset, so there’ll always be at least one run at the raid, on my main character, that evening. In the event we can get clear times down to an hour or so, as we have with previous raids, maybe we can squeeze in a run on one of the alts. Then there’s the weekly Nightfall strike to run on all three characters – one on Tuesday if we’ve been efficient in the raid. Wednesday and Thursday will be spent mopping up those, then ticking off Destiny 2’ s other activities that yield level-raising gear. That lot’s enough to keep me going until Friday, when Xur, the wandering, tentacle-faced vendor, turns up with an overcoat lined with shiny exotic guns, and Trials Of The Nine, the frighteningly competitive weekend PvP mode, kicks off. Maybe by Sunday or Monday evening I’ll have run out of things to do, and can simply play the game for – gasp! – fun.
Obviously I enjoy the game – I adore it, in fact, and wouldn’t go through all of this if I didn’t – but Destiny is structured in such a way that the most efficient way of playing it is to go all in: to have three characters and play for at least a couple of hours a night. It’s mad, really, but it’s far from the only game to do it, nor is it the sole game of its kind in my life. Puzzle & Dragons makes materials used in evolving your powerful monsters available in dungeons that only appear one day per week; a specific evolution might require a drop from a daily dungeon that could take a couple of months to come up in the rotation. There have long been games that have encouraged a daily routine – Animal Crossing is the obvious one – but increasingly games are being designed around the concept of having you log in every day and giving you something different to do each time.
There are merits to that, of course, and developers’ motivations are obvious – even noble. The best way of keeping a game off the trade-in pile is to build an ecosystem around it to ensure steady engagement, and the most straightforward way of doing that is by building a schedule, staggering your content drops and refreshes over the course of the week. Thanks to mobile games, daily active users, or DAU, is one of the most important measures of a game’s success. No wonder that our relationships with such games increasingly resemble a school timetable.
There’s homework, too. I’ll frequently look up Puzzle & Dragons dungeon details on thirdparty websites before they launch, planning ahead, teambuilding and theory crafting so I can hopefully clear them quickly when they arrive. My phone buzzes with messages from the Destiny crew throughout the day, working out who’s available, what time we’re going to meet, and who we can sub in if someone’s not around.
At times you wonder whether it’s all getting a bit much. In and amongst all this I also need to be a husband, father and magazine editor. I have plenty of other games I ought to play. And at some point, I really need to get some sleep. You worry that maybe a hobby is becoming a habit; that a pastime is starting to resemble a profession. And now I think of it, perhaps a monthly column is transforming into a four-weekly cry for help. Still, there’s no time to worry about that right now. It’s Destiny 2 reset tomorrow, and I’ve tons still left to do.
The best way of keeping a game off the trade-in pile is to build an ecosystem around it to ensure steady engagement