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The Joy of not talking to other people in Destiny 2

It's good to talk. Sometimes.

Destiny 2 has had a rough time of late, what with players discovering that late-game grinding may very well be a gigantic waste of time, and the general hostility to microtransactions going around these days. Since its launch on PC in October, players have also groused about its strict communication rules: there’s no in-game chat lobby, text or voice, in which to find fireteam members for that Nightfall strike or Leviathan raid. And no public matchmaking for these activities, which yield the game’s most exclusive and powerful gear. Me, though? I love that about it.

I never played the first Destiny, so jumping in this year on PC I was struck by how the game looks like a series of sci-fi paperback novel covers, as if some 1970s editions of Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein had been brought to life. Exploring the gorgeous environments of Io and Nessus as a solitary, somber, and silent experience feels right to me.

It’s not impossible to talk with other players, mind you. But there’s a built-in vetting process. You can join a clan, run a few patrols with someone, and then add them to your friends list. One of you can initiate voice communication, and if the other player consents you can start chatting away. And that’s a good thing, because by the time you get to the endgame content, you’ll need to coordinate with your fireteam. Particularly in the Nightfalls and raid, calling out what you’re doing and seeing to your fireteam is crucial. These activities are designed to be completed by teams working and talking with each other, so why the all the hurdles to voice chat?

To my mind, the chat system serves two important purposes. First and foremost, it means you must have an actual reason for teaming up with anyone else. Whether you’ve found them in-game, through shared public events, standard strikes, or clans, you won’t be (unless you really try) playing the intensive endgame missions with complete strangers. That’s encouraging a higher quality of communication that you’d have in public matches—and anyone who’s made the mistake of taking the Plunkbat plane ride with voice chat enabled knows exactly how awful that can get.

I played several sections of the Leviathan raid for the first time with my brother and some friends I’d found online, who knew how to teach us the ropes of each encounter. They’re challenging events, and they demand a very deliberate kind of teamwork and a sometimes-saintly amount of patience with each other. Once we’d logged off, my brother texted me: “I can understand now why random matchmaking isn’t a thing for the raid.”

He’s right. Imagine the horror of trying to get six random Plunkbatters to coordinate with each other at any level beyond howling insults. Getting dumped into a six-person team in Destiny 2 for a raid that requires understanding, communication, leadership, and patience would, 99 times out of 100, be a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

The second purpose is a direct result of the first: the people who play Destiny 2 together wind up expecting and giving a certain level of respect amongt their groups. And this means there’s much less of the “toxic community” problem that inevitably winds up metastasizing within almost any online game — not even Overwatch’s lovely color palette and inclusive cast of heroes has protected it from this, and Blizzard has had to devote a lot of time and energy to dealing with the problem.

But in Destiny 2? If that’s there, I’ll never find it. Instead, I can enjoy my Robert Heinlein landscapes and space goblins and know that if I want to talk to someone while I’m doing it, it’ll be because I want to.

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