Ghouls and Ghosts and Guardians

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We often laud games for their ability to look and feel like they aren’t games, but that’s not to say that game-like games are bad. Quite the contrary; sometimes a great game is nothing more than a diversion, a pleasant grind to distract from daily life.

Destiny is one of those games. It had a pretty rough launch; a poorly-conveyed story, a notoriously difficult development cycle, and awful decisions regarding progression dragged it down to the point that it was outright frustrating to play. Then, The Taken King rolled out, and almost every single flaw was fixed. Every flaw but one:

Where were the goofy diversions? The meaningless tasks like titles, or cosmetics to gather?

I don’t say this is a bad thing; those meaningless objects add longevity to a game. We are, after all, creatures of compulsion, of habit, of completion. If a single percentage point is unexplored, or a single title unearned, it is in our nature – not just as players but as human beings, – to seek it out and conquer it.

As much as we may loathe to admit it, achievements are not only effective, they’re desirable. So many people seek out the perfect armor piece to complete their outfit in Dark Souls, or obsessively clear every side activity on the map, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Pulling from this design theory, Bungie implemented one of the most entertaining Halloween events in an MMO. It’s pretty simple: Wear masks while killing enemies to collect candy. It’s amazing how infused this simple task is with charm.  It’s the same sort of obsessive completionism that keeps MMOs alive.UW67-small

For example, the first Halloween quest sends you trick or treating around the Tower, and NPCs give lore-suitable responses when you approach. Eris Morn’s is particularly funny, and her “gift” – a box of raisins – is a fun little nod to “that house” from most people’s childhoods.

The main draw, however, is that you can collect masks of various NPCs and enemies. However, they are constrained by the time limit – they disappear on November 9th! – unless you use a rare item to make them stick around. They don’t offer any in-game benefits, but if you’ve ever been spooked by a player pretending to be Xur, it’s pretty obvious there’s some fun cosmetic use for them in the tower.

Then there’s the changed aesthetic. The tower is more like a haunted house, with various “spooky” decorations such as cobwebs and plastic bats scattered around. Funhouse screams and wolf howls echo in the background, often behind the actual music; it adds a lot of humor to otherwise self-serious and morose scenes.

Items allow you to change into pumpkin headed monsters or reappear via a flight of bats. It’s silly and and game-like and ridiculous, and it’s heartening to see Bungie not taking Destiny so seriously that they can’t have a little fun with their baby.

Hopefully the Halloween event is a measure of things to come. Here’s looking forward to sharing a turkey roast with Oryx.