I don’t like playing games with other people. There, I said it. For whatever reason, I just never got into it. I grew up at a time when playing co-op games meant inviting people over to your house, and as a poor kid in the country I rarely had the games to play or the friends to invite. Thus my earliest gaming experiences were mostly solo. By the time that perhaps the biggest social gaming phenomena—MMOs—rolled around, I was already set in my ways. And despite the popularity of the genre, and multiplayer in general, I’ve never felt left out. It’s hard as an adult to start scheduling your life around other people, and even more so if you have back problems and a limited attention span. Most games have decent single player campaigns even if they’re primarily meant as a group experience, so I’ve gotten by without missing out on the big stuff. But mostly, I’m just a bit of a loner. I have neurological issues that make overstimulation exhausting, so I take most things, including socializing, at my own pace. It works for me.
But then came Destiny 2, a first person shooter with MMO sensibilities, whose multiplayer features I vowed never to participate in…and I. am. loving it.
In Destiny 2, when it comes to co-op play, you can take it or leave it. You’re surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people on a mission, but you’re in no way obligated to participate. If you want to jump into a Public Event and help some folks take down a monster, or run around the ruins of European Dead Zone killing Fallen with a bunch of strangers, you can. But if you don’t want to, screw it. Ignore ‘em, run around, mill about in The Farm and pretend they don’t exist. Let them fall in battle, and don’t revive them. No one’s making you play nice. It’s a participation level I can get behind, allowing me to jump in and out as my schedule demands, without the nastiness of being called a whore in voicechat.
It’s like a cat I had, Sabrina. She was born in a crowded cat breeder’s home and suffered some kind of trauma at an early age, making her very anti-social, yet strangely dependent on other cats. She was at her best when there were multiple other animals in the house, sitting in a corner, observing from a distance, only occasionally darting in to play for a few minutes before getting spooked and running away. That cat is me, but with videogames. I am Sabrina.
I know Destiny 2 is not the only game to allow this level of cooperative freedom. Maybe something about it just reminds me of the one multiplayer game I did get into as a teenager, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, where dungeon runs are held by anonymous mobs and huge groups of players jump into game after game after game without even bothering to introduce themselves. I appreciated it because I could go in and get the job got done without all the awkward social rituals. Do I say thanks now? Do we have to be friends? Is it rude if I just leave? My play style is “one night stand” and Diablo II understood that. I like feeling that flexibility again.
Destiny 2’s social features are made better by the fact that you don’t have to use them. The constant activity gives the game a compelling sense of chaos, and I’ve met some great short term companions, and enjoyed a newfound interest in group combat. It’s the perfect social game for anti-social people, and I’m looking forward to more of not making any friends.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.