The strangely Christian meta narrative of the Destiny games

Hold on to your hats, folks, I’m going all literary analysis on you today.

So I’ve been getting into the games Destiny and Destiny 2. These are multiplayer online shooters where you shoot aliens and collect loot. Pretty straightforward and pretty fun (and often, just downright pretty.)

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Destiny 2 concept art: Nessus

But the game also hints at a deeper backstory that it doesn’t explain super well, unless you’re willing to spend hours piecing together tidbits scattered throughout the games. So I’ve been watching lore videos on YouTube, where other people take all those tidbits and string them together into a cohesive story.

I’ve been increasingly delighted with the meta-narrative of Destiny.

Like most science fiction, the story operates from a humanist worldview: mankind can become gods if we just put aside our differences and work hard enough. But then the metaplot comes into play, and it’s decidedly not humanist. In fact, it swings decidedly Christian. I wonder if the writers at Bungie realize what they hath wrought and its significance.

The big picture story goes like this. There is this alien-machine god-thing called the Traveler that looks like a small white moon. It’s power is called Light. It shows up in our solar system, grants humans the Light, and terraforms the inner planets and the various moons of the gas giants. Humans go live on these planets. Humans also develop longer lives, better tech, etc, and go into a Golden Age.

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Destiny concept art

This doesn’t last, of course. There’s an evil force called the Darkness that chases the Traveler from place to place. Its weapons are four alien races that serve it, but all who crave the Light–or hate it. They stomp humanity, destroy their colonies, and ruin Earth.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Traveler actually battles the Darkness one on one. The game is very vague about this point, and the lore videos have multiple theories about what exactly happened. Point is, the Traveler won, but it was wounded and stopped terraforming and things.

Instead, it sent out these tiny robots made of Light called Ghosts. Each Ghost resurrects a single person, basically a zombie (or revenant, since they have their soul) powered by Light. They became known as Guardians. If one of these guardians is killed, they can be resurrected so long as their Ghost is unharmed. If their Ghost dies, no more resurrections for them, it’s lights out.

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Destiny warlock by TDSpiral

See the metaphor going on, here? It’s super interesting. Almost a Holy Ghost thing.

Now, it’s not a perfect metaphor. In real life, the God is the source of all Light, and He was not only before the Darkness, he already defeated it. The Darkness itself has a name and a face. Once known as the Light Bearer, he has become the Enemy, and his sin was pride. “I will become like the Most High!”

Jesus battled the Darkness and overcame it, being wounded on our behalf. In Destiny terms, the Last City in the shadow of the Traveler might as well be built at the foot of the Cross, because the symbolism is so similar.

Now, it’s really too bad that Destiny clings to its humanist philosophy. In its lore, the Traveler gives Light without making any demands of humanity. No devotion to righteousness, no forsaking sin and Darkness. In real life, there are two sides, and we have to pick one. If that was the case in Destiny, then the battle between Light and Darkness would go beyond meta-narrative and become the personal struggle of every Guardian. The story of the Warlords–guardians who abused their power–would become even more vile.

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If such a choosing of sides was possible, then redemption would also be possible for the four alien races who serve the Darkness, however unwittingly. It would be possible for them to abandon Darkness and serve the Light, too, thus becoming very interesting allies.

But Destiny keeps things very Tao, with Light and Darkness equally matched and no ultimate victory is possible. Mankind doesn’t have to seek righteousness and abandon sin in order to receive power. (Which, the more you think about it, is so strange. Why aren’t Guardians forced to pick sides? There are in-game stories of Guardians who joined the Darkness, so maybe, in a way, that choice is still there, just buried out of sight.)

So, that’s Destiny’s meta-narrative, a lot of Christian ideas underlying a humanist story. And it’s funny, because if you make the game more humanist (the Light is ours because humanity is awesome), then the battle between Light and Darkness falls apart, with no real difference between them. If you make the game more Christian, with the Light actually having conditions and everyone being forced to pick sides, then the story becomes much more profound.

Maybe that’s one reason the story is intentionally left vague, scattered throughout the game in hints and tidbits. Breadcrumbs for those to see who can. I’m continually shocked at the Christian terminology these lore gamers use to describe these concepts.

I think it’s a good lesson for us Christian writers. Tell a good story and don’t be afraid to pull in delicious metaphor about the struggle between good and evil. It rings true for everyone.

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Destiny 2 concept art: shard of the Traveler

 

4 thoughts on “The strangely Christian meta narrative of the Destiny games

  1. Reading your review makes me wish I played games. The screen shots are amazing.
    I love how you found all of that imagery in it. It does sound like an amazing game.

    Like

  2. you are right with the similarities, [K. M. Carroll, Author].

    With Destiny (currently with the DLCs/Seasons: [Shadowkeep]/[Season of the Undying] and [Season of Dawn]) we have: The [Light]/[Sky]/[Gardener], the Traveler, and the Ghosts (even including the Lightbearer Guardians).

    Now: THE LORD GOD/FATHER, JESUS CHRIST, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD (with those Following HIS SON, the Disciples/Christians (or maybe Guardians in Destiny are more put into comparison to the Angels of GOD? Since they battle out any of the servants of the [Darkness]/[Deep]/[Winnower]/[Formless One] head on into Paracausal fields? (or in a Spiritual plane, as it is described in Destiny) Much like how the Holy Angels are keeping their Rebellious former brethren at bay away from Humanity in the Physical Plane?).

    Anyways, I’m glad there are more similar views on how Destiny’s Paracausal and Acausal nature is being inspired by some of the Big parts from the Bible. Good and Evil towards Destiny’s Light and Darkness.

    A lot you will find in forums and websites about the Destiny series’ Morality system within the story being told as ‘Not important’ and being ‘No such thing as Right and Wrong’. Though that is Not the case within the Game’s story, despite the [Light]/[Gardener] and the Traveler and the Ghosts Not being GOD. That does not mean they do not care on carrying good morality on them….

    Keep up with these kinds of topics.

    Be Brave and Have Faith…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh good, somebody else who thinks too much about this kind of thing! My thought is that the Traveler/Gardener kind of stands in place as an angel, kind of a good cherubim, and the pyramid ships/Darkness/Winnower is kind of an evil angel with a lot of forces of evil collected together to fight against the Light. The deeper we get into the pyramid ship lore, the weirder Destiny’s creation myth gets. Anyway, thanks so much for your comment!

      Like

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