Destiny 2 on Religion: Rise of Evil – Wisecrack Quick Take
Is Destiny 2 inspired by one of England’s most famous poets? And if so, what can we learn about the game’s antagonist’s true motivation? Find out on this Wisecrack Quick Take on Destiny 2.
Directed by: Robert Tiemstra
Written by: Matt Reichle
Edited by: Andrew Nishimura
Produced by: Emily Dunbar & Jacob Salamon
Destiny 2 on Religion: Rise of Evil – Wisecrack Quick Take
Hey Wisecrack, corporeal Jared again. Since Destiny 2 dropped, we’ve been grinding over public events, the crucible, and strikes. Oddly enough, while playing an amazing thing happened—there’s an actual narrative to follow this time. Sure, the original had all the Grimoire Cards… but seriously “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” This time we get a glimpse into the motivation of the game’s antagonist—and it’s not simple revenge, delusions of grandeur, or monomaniacal madness. Nope, the main villain of destiny 2 is driven by the same thing that people run on now: Pride and Envy. Welcome to this Wisecrack Quicktake on Destiny 2. And as usual, spoilers ahead. First things first: a quick recap.
Destiny 2 opens with Dominus Ghaul (also known as Gary)..“today we know our enemy and his name is: “Gary. Gill… Glen? I don’t know, something with a G,” …the military leader of the Cabal, and his crew, the Red Legion… assaulting the Tower –the last real city on Earth. Dominus and his crew blow shit up, steal the mystical Light of the Traveler, a giant planet-shaped God, and kidnap the Traveler’s Speaker, who is a prophet of sorts. You play as a Guardian, and are now screwed because without the Traveler’s light you’ve become a mere mortal. So you have go travel the galaxy to restore the Traveler’s light and defeat Dominus. Destiny has always been filled with Judeo-Christian allusions and undertones: The Guardians are corpses brought back to life with the Traveler’s Light like Christian salvation and resurrection; and the game all but says the Traveler is a God that sacrifices itself for the greater good of the universe a la the Christian crucifixion. The main characters, the Guardians of the Traveler’s light, may as well be the guardians of God’s divine light, aka his Heavenly Choir of Angels. Get it, Guardian angels.
This light business is a pretty big theme in Destiny. The Guardians are literally powered by light, and when when you die in Destiny 2 we see: “your light fades away.” And what’s the opposite of Light? Well, Darkness. Still not buying the biblical connection? consider this passage: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The evil that the traveler fled in the original Destiny was: the darkness. When you died in Destiny you saw: “the darkness consumed you.” The loss of light is the central theme in Destiny. But Destiny 2 gets a little more specific, and borrows heavily from a three-hundred-and-forty year-old epic poem by John Milton — Paradise Lost. Milton’s poem traces the fall of man and follows Satan on his journey to get revenge on God: by corrupting his newly created paradise, and its inhabitants – Adam and Eve.
Destiny 2 seems inspired by one of Milton’s central motifs: the juxtaposition of light and dark. Milton’s angels are represented as light because of the goodness and illumination of God’s grace. Meanwhile, demons are described via darkness and their absence of light. Dominus Ghaul, in a way, plays the role of Satan, whose angel name was Lucifer— or Latin for light bearer. And Ghaul is pretty fixated on stealing the Traveler’s light.
While the parallels between Ghaul and Satan are intriguing–they’re pretty essential to understanding who you’re fighting. According to the lead designer of Destiny 2, Luke Smith, Gaul is motivated by a sort of inferiority complex. Ghaul was an orphaned space turtle raised to believe that the Traveler messed up when he chose humanity–Gaul is taught to believe that he is the greatest thing in the universe since nutella. It shouldn’t be surprising that this is also Satan’s motivation in Paradise Lost. Lucifer is pissed that he was skipped over for that big promotion– God gave the number two slot to his son–and so he plots to burn down heaven and tempt man to turn away from god. Ghaul, by comparison, is pissed the Traveler chose the Guardians so he kicks them out of the tower and tries to bend the Traveler to his will.
One things that seems odd about Ghaul’s motivation is: the Consul, Ghaul’s adoptive father, keeps telling him to stop messing around with the speaker—and to just take the Light. Eventually Ghaul kills the Consul and the Speaker and takes the light. If he took the light anyway why the hell did he kill the Consul? Why did he wait so long? The answer is complicated but, to simplify: Ghaul was holding out for recognition- he is seeking affection and love from a God. but in a messed up way. Recognition has a long philosophical tradition but we’re going to talk about what it means for our old friend W.G.F. Hegel.
For Hegel, people desire a self–a sort of consciousness–or what some people call subjectivity–and there are all sorts of steps that people take to achieve subjectivity. Recognition takes place primarily through vision, and in order for recognition to occur, both subjects need to feel like one another are worthy of recognition. Most people aren’t reassured by a thumbs up from Charles Manson– because it it doesn’t exactly scream: “you are doing the right thing.” But a thumbs up from a role model or a god, it gives you the warm and fuzzies. Ghaul is searching for validation from what he considers to be an equal… Because, well Ghaul is basically a god, given that he is the Emperor of the Cabal… Ghaul’s motivation for recognition comes from the fact that he was a runt and an orphan who was cast aside and abandoned. Even giant space turtles have low self-esteem, I guess.
Dominus hopes that in decimating the Guardians he will show the traveler that he’s deserving of the light—that he’ll be recognized as a true subject worthy of protecting the light.. He is willing to do pretty much anything—like quasi crucify the speaker- In order to get that sweet light, or really, god-like immortality. He’ll even blow up the sun for it. Ghaul believes he is worthy because all of the sacrifice that he has gone through. Because the Guardians were just picked willy nilly in Destiny one—Ghaul doesn’t believe that the Guardians have sacrificed anything.
In a way, Ghaul is right. I mean, The Guardians were endowed with immortality at random–they don’t have any fear of death–they didn’t pull themselves up by their space boots or anything. They just sort of got lucky. So when the speaker tells him that the traveler has never spoken to him and that there is no chance in hell he will ever get the light–Gaul flips out, kills the speaker, and takes it anyway. Even though Ghaul said word for word “I will not take the light.” It’s here that Ghaul becomes the Villain of Destiny. Once he kills the Consul and the speaker and takes the light he rejects the recognition model that governs Hegel’s ethics and goes straight to thievery and universal domination. In a full circle moment he replicates Satan’s biggest sin–the hubris to believe that he could ever be an equal to god.
So when Gaul is killed in the last fight and resurrects as a giant marshmallow god thing–he has to ask if the traveler finally recognizes him–if he finally sees him. But the Traveler can’t see him. So there you have it, a tale of hubris and recognition. Personally, I love the strong narrative component to Destiny 2, but I also love just aimlessly walking around, killing stuff, and picking up loot. I love the micro-transactions a little less. But what do you guys think? Should the game stick to the basics or explore more of these themes in the future?
Thanks for watching, guys! Peace!