The Guardian’s Fall, Part 2: Some Psychology

You read my six reasons why I stopped playing Destiny 2. So, why do I still care about Destiny? Why do I find myself thinking about Destiny in the odd hours of the night, contemplating whether I should “hop on for a few minutes…?” I have a theory. It’s not my theory, but it’s been applied to Destiny in the past, and I believe it’s worth mentioning.

I blame psychology. I blame it on a concept of B.F. Skinner’s.

Skinner cared about how and why organisms learned – the mechanical processes that occurred when organisms learned. One of Skinner’s main, accepted psychological theories was that of Operant Conditioning. To keep things short, as this is a video game site and not a psych forum, if an organism performs an action, and sees reward or punishment as a result of that action, the organism will incorporate the punishment or reward into their thought process the next time this action comes up in their life. So, if they’re rewarded for X, they’ll do X more. If they’re punished for Y, they’ll avoid Y.

Now, let’s apply this to Destiny. I choose an activity, like heroic strike, fail to complete the mission, and am punished, as the potential reward for completing the heroic strike disappears in front of me. So, I try another activity: regular strike. I enter the activity, and, this time, I am successful. I complete the mission, and am rewarded with some weapons and armor. I feel good about myself, so I do this activity again. I repeat the strike, and get some more good gear, feeling better the second time around. This good feel is amplified by the fact that in Destiny you are able to complete lower level tasks that will contribute to your later ability to complete higher level tasks, i.e., you run regular strikes until you’re rewarded enough to take on the heroic strikes. Then, more rewards come. This is a cycle that continues until you reach the maximum, hard-cap for power level.

Now, if you were a rat in a cage, you would receive a mild shock upon your toes if you failed your heroic strike. But, as human beings participating in an extracurricular activity, there is no way to punish someone in the same way for their failure. So their failure becomes an absence of reward instead, and, therefore, the lack of reward becomes a sort of drive to push themselves further – to achieve and achieve.

This is a slippery slope. I feel that I’m suffering from a lack of Operant Conditioning rewards, maybe. You get so used to things after a while, and maybe the loot drops were something that stuck with me… something I “need” in a way.

(Note: I take no original credit for the application of this principle to Destiny. It’s been discussed many times over. The video that introduced me to this concept can be found here.)

Anyway, what have I been doing with my time since losing D2? It’s strange, because at a certain points Destiny would eat up anywhere from six to ten hours of my day, and replacing that time has been interesting. I’ve been working, which has been great, but, more importantly, I’ve been playing other games when I find the time. It’s really as simple as that. Without the weight, the pull, the pressure, and the drive to seek reward in D2, I have, in a strange way, a sense of freedom to play other games.

I’ve jumped back into Overwatch (go Fusion!), and my friends and I squad up in PlayerUnknown’s: Battlegrounds nearly every night. I’ve been playing Nintendo Switch games, currently hooked on Enter The Gungeon, and am anxious to finish the L.A. Noire port. My point is, I have the freedom to play other games now, as the psychological shackles that grounded me to Destiny have been released. *Breathes sigh of relief.*

I don’t really care about Destiny 2 right now, and, truthfully, I’ve felt this way for a while. After Iron Banner, things slid, and Bungie couldn’t get the stable footing back that they needed, in my opinion. Check the forums, everyone’s mad. Check the reddit pages, same thing there. Check the numbers, more guardians fall each and every day. I don’t really care about it, which feels mildly disappointing…I suppose.

The other day, a coworker asked what I thought of the Destiny news, and I was ashamed to have no answer. I was confused, as I had no idea what news the coworker was referring to. Had no idea. I had separated myself from the game and completely ignored it. Thinking back, I never finished the Eater of Worlds Raid Lair. I never reached the highest level cap, either, after Osiris. I never found a Masterworked weapon, either. Hmm. You know what?

I might not ever.

And I feel good about that.


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