To mark the end of the 2010s, we're celebrating 30 games that defined the last 10 years. You can find all the articles as they're published in the Games of the Decade archive, and read about the thinking behind it in an editor's blog.
When I think back to my time playing Destiny, I remember the ways I exploited it, cheesed it, or sometimes even broke it before I remember the times I played it as Bungie intended. I remember the loot cave, a simple hole in a rock that spat out endless waves of Hive - and, as a result, endless waves of shiny engrams - before I remember one of the Strikes. I remember turning off the internet to try to get big bad Dark Below boss Crota stuck in the kneeling position so someone could slice up the sitting duck with a sword before I recall one of the public events. And I remember spending hours and hours and even more hours running into a boss room, blasting the boss to bits with a rocket launcher, nabbing the exotic engram he dropped, then blasting myself to death in order to reset the encounter, before I remember what I had to do to hit the light level cap. The cheeses were many, the rewards delicious, the memories eternal. Were we cowards? Or just bad at the game? A bit of both. And we didn't care.
Playing Destiny in the two years after it came out back in September 2014 was a punishing experience, but it was always a memorable one. And Destiny was at its most memorable when people came together to play in unintended ways. Things like the loot cave told the story Destiny so sorely missed. Bungie's plot was torn to shreds in the run up to the Destiny's release, but memes meant we cared about the empty vase characters like Commander "the Fallen are crafty" Zavala. The Mysterious Stranger had no time to explain why she didn't have time to explain, so players explained how to cheese Destiny in her place, posting guides on YouTube and on reddit for the entire community to gobble up with a ferocious hunger I hadn't seen since the early days of World of Warcraft. Destiny ended up being the water-cooler video game Bungie and then-publisher Activision so sorely craved, but we weren't talking about the Traveller's fate or the Speaker's motivation. We were talking about Dinklebot telling us that wizard came from the moon, and excitedly recounting how we were up all night cheesing the Summoning Pits from the safety of the room outside of the boss room, using the Ice Breaker sniper rifle and its self-replenishing ammo to slowly but surely wear that big ugly ogre down.
These cheeses would often spread like juicy gossip. A reddit post about a cave that could be spawn camped, but would never stop dropping loot snowballed into millions of players logging on to shoot at an endless stream of enemies (the community even established a loot cave farming etiquette). A tweet about an exotic engram exploit was initially met with disbelief, but eventually mobilised an army of Guardians to spend all night blowing themselves up with rockets. A whatsapp message from a clanmate: "have you seen the cheese for Valus Ta'aurc?" We hadn't, so we rushed to check what was being said. Run in and hide under the stairs, then shoot him from there. It sounded promising! Tonight, friends, we will put this cheese to the test. And so we'd run home, turn on our PlayStation 4s, whack on our headsets and log-in. "Hey, shall we try that Valus cheese?" "We've all been doing it all day." "Oh. Can you do it again with me, please?"
Bungie tackled Destiny's problems over time, of course. And with the big expansion The Taken King, Bungie righted many of Destiny's design wrongs. Indisputably, The Taken King made Destiny a better game. But for me something was lost. It was less fun, somehow. Everything progressed smoother and people really enjoyed it, but that made Destiny a bit boring to me. The Taken King was great, but it was not the Destiny I will remember for years to come, maybe even for decades to come. OG Destiny made me miserable, but since we were finding the fun together, it was thrilling.
Bungie has patched out those old exploits, closed off the loot cave and dumped the cheeses in the bin. They are gone forever. It is impossible to dip back into Destiny and play the loot cave as it once was. If you pull out your ethernet cable while fighting Crota now, he won't bat an eye-lid. But, like a Guardian with their Ghost, our memories never truly die. And, I think, neither will Destiny.