Since I got back into Destiny 2 a few months ago it’s been in fairly constant rotation as an in-between game. It’s something I’ll play when I’m not playing a new game like Final Fantasy VII: Remake or pulling a Civilization binge. It’s something I refer to as a smooth-brain game, borrowing a term from a Polygon article from last year. It’s something I can play without having to think too much about narrative or really tough combat; I can just put on music or a podcast and just zone out while fighting space aliens.
This is called The Grind. Grinding is an activity that’s intrinsically tied to so many games; you grind it out in Victory Road so your Pokémon are strong enough to fight the Elite Four, you run around fighting random Heartless so you can beat the final boss in Kingdom Hearts. Basically, you’re doing something fairly repetitive to get your character stronger or find a rare drop. In Destiny, that grind will net you more powerful gear, rare weapons, or some other Cool Thing that you work towards. It means you’ll be doing the same thing you usually do, but often with an additional, ulterior goal, like getting kills with a certain sort of weapon or ability. Sure, you’re doing the same thing over and over again, but it’s a little more interesting and there’s a shiny reward at the other end for your efforts.
It sounds like work when I type it out like this. And truthfully, it can feel that way, logging on to see what the day’s bounties are or what quest I’m going to tackle. It certainly helps that Destiny keeps it fresh, with Seasons that bring little bits of story and new quests almost every week. There’s usually something new to work towards, even if the activity you’re doing is one you’ve done literally a hundred times. There’s always a brand new carrot hanging just out of your reach.
The other thing that keeps me coming back to the grind is that Destiny’s gameplay is just so good. It feels so good to play, The weapons are responsive and diverse, enemies offer up just enough of a challenge to keep things interesting. It’s that quintessential x-factor that is game feel, where the simple act of playing the game feels good. Destiny is fun to play, so of course I’m going to keep coming back to a fun game, especially when it’s something that I don’t need to think too much about as I play (which is quite hard, as I tend to think a lot about the things I consume).
Destiny’s grind is something I find to be quite meditative, like building with LEGO bricks or actual yoga. I can get into a flow where my hands and mind are able to focus on something that doesn’t require too much brainpower and I can just zone out. Plus, Destiny having a goal quiets the part of my mind that wants to achieve something. It allows me to chill out and listen to a podcast or jam to an album I really like. There’s this weird zen to it, to this smooth-brain game, one that lets me actually, truly relax.