Double dipping. The phrase means different things depending on the context and the situation. It’s a faux pas, committed at the snacks’ table in the break room. In business and finance it is a frowned upon practice, usually considered unethical, in which a person or corporation games the system in their favor by, for example, writing off the same business expense in two different tax categories for a double deduction. And in gaming, it is the curious practice of paying for the same game twice on two different gaming platforms.
It is a personal choice, and unlike the other examples listed above, it is a victimless crime. But it still draws the ire of people. Even when there’s a legitimate reason, like having groups of gaming friends on two different systems for the same multiplayer game, someone will shame you for it. The internet loves to shame.
I personally try to avoid double dipping, but on occasion I can justify it. Sometimes a great sale will tempt me to revisit a game, a different platform and a bargain basement price can be a nice excuse to play Resident Evil 4 for the umpteenth time. If a game comes up free on PS+ or Xbox Live, I’ll add it to my library whether I have it on the other system or not. But that’s for free, so… The Nintendo Switch offers the portability factor, so at least there’s always that excuse. Even still, I try not to spend money on games I already own. But recently I broke my own code. And I did it in grotesque fashion. It gave me some real insight into the flaws of the game in question, and into the kind of gamer I have become.
Round 1: Fight!
When Destiny 2 released, last fall, I was excited. I was excited to return to a franchise I had tired of, and I was excited to be a part of the community again. You can read some of those initial impressions here and here. I bought the game for the Xbox One, along with the expansion pass for the first two DLC drops. I played through the campaign, sometimes with a friend, mostly alone. I’m older, my friends are older. Just finding two hours to put together for game time is hard enough, trying to sync those two hours up with a friend, working around jobs and families… Well, it’s certainly possible, but it just wasn’t happening, and that wasn’t a problem. At the height of my mania for Destiny 1, if I wanted to roll with a full fire team, I was dependent on LFG sites and message boards. I know how to find players.
I wasn’t worried about finding teammates though. As my Hunter and I were space-hopping from Earth to Titan to the outer rim of the Solar System and back, we were just fine on our own. Destiny 2 was just fun. For a few dozen hours, I was hooked. The loot fell steadily. I fell in love with a Hand Cannon, Better Devils. It was the closest thing I could find to my cherished Fatebringer from the first Destiny raid, that satisfying explosive pop of area-of-effect damage upon a precision hit. As I casually visited message boards and listened to podcasts dedicated to Destiny 2, I found that Better Devils was on the short-list for many players’ top-tier end-game loadouts. I patted myself on the back for my excellent taste, and I carried on. My power level climbed ever closer to that 290 mark. The whole time I was telling myself, soon, soon I’ll be ready to party up and get into the raid. Then, as I got closer, things started to change. The big differences between Destiny and Destiny 2 started to show.
I had added an explosive-round Scout Rifle to my repertoire, the Nameless Midnight, and I had a few exotics. I had picked out, cosmetically, an armor set that I liked. Then I infused. Loot kept dropping, I would glance at it, consider for a moment, and infuse again. For a while, I tried to keep one of everything legendary or higher in my vault. Then it became frustrating to keep track of what I had already and what I didn’t. And then I realized I was never going to suddenly opt into those other armor sets, that nothing was ever going to replace my Better Devils/Nameless Midnight combo. Unless I wanted to run with the Mida Multi-Tool for some Crucible, but I had that already too. Basically, I was just reaching Destiny 2’s end-game, and I had already found my optimum loadout. This is the, the, pronounced with a long E, difference between Destiny and Destiny 2.
Back when I started running the Vault of Glass raid in Destiny, there were exotics that everyone wanted; Gjallarhorn obviously, Plan C, etc… But there was a chance, slim though it might be, to get those anywhere. What got me hooked on Destiny was the raid drops, the legendary weapons and armor that only dropped at certain encounters. Vision of Confluence and Fatebringer were my original Scout/HC duo. Big fans of the original Destiny will remember the chase. It was, for me, the high point of Destiny.
The expansions added more raids, which, on the plus side, created a new chase for me, and everyone, to embark on, but the new items and light-cap also rendered the Vault of Glass gear obsolete. That is the give and take of an ongoing MMO type game. Obviously, a game has to give us a reason to keep playing. But I am not going to discuss the evolution of Destiny 1, there’s plenty out there about that already. The point, for me, is that the later raids in Destiny never gave me that same feeling, and, as I’ve said elsewhere, I eventually just moved on to other games.
Flash forward to Destiny 2, with my fully tricked-out Guardian just about raid-ready, and it started to occur to me that the chase was over and I had missed it. I spent so much time looking forward to getting that Vault of Glass feeling back again, I didn’t realize I was already feeling it. I overlooked the sequel’s biggest change from the original. They had made Destiny 2 more accessible by making the best weapons in the game available anywhere. They weren’t necessarily common. I still put in plenty of hours before I felt like I was ‘complete.’ Destiny 2 gave me my money’s worth. But I was done with it. I still needed to check out Leviathan, but I put it on the back-burner and I moved on.
Round 2: Fight!!!
Then I did it all over again. You heard me right. And no, I don’t mean I started grinding for a Warlock or a Titan.
It happened like this. A few of the younger guys I work with got into Destiny 2 on the PS4. They didn’t have much experience with Destiny 1, and it was fun to hear about their adventures. They kept bugging me to get it for the PlayStation, and I kept telling them I wasn’t going to buy it again, but I was glad they liked it. Still, they persisted. They would talk about their power levels. They would talk about the loadouts they were using. One of them, after I explained it to him, used the Destiny App to find a raid team and he had a great time. The others were excited to do the raid too. Hearing them getting so excited made me think that maybe this time I could actually play with a regular raid team, maybe it would be worth it. And then I caved. I didn’t find it on sale. I got a used copy, but it was still nearly full price, and I bought the expansion pass. Again. I had flagrantly double-dipped.
I think the most interesting thing is that I enjoyed my second grind as much, maybe even more, than I did the first. I created a Hunter and made him look identical to my Xbox Guardian. I did everything the same. And I still had a blast. I kept telling the guys at work that I’d be “raid ready” soon. I blitzed through the main campaign and the Curse of Osiris story on my own. I even did more of the Adventure side missions than I had done on my initial Xbox run. It never felt repetitive. It had been a long enough break in time, and the story is silly enough, that I had forgotten the details. I started making grandiose plans involving regularly scheduled Destiny nights with my raid team and writing a long form article about “How I Came To Understand The Genius Of Destiny 2.” If one thing had changed, for me, it was knowing that the best gear wasn’t gated behind certain activities; that I could pretty much just decide what I wanted to play with, and then the grind was simply for higher powered gear to infuse. I no longer had to concern myself with specific content, stressing about finishing a certain encounter, no more scanning message boards for Templar checkpoints. Bungie had made everything more accessible. And I convinced myself that that was great.
Then, just as quickly as it had on the Xbox, my interest disappeared. In both cases, it wasn’t a slow fade like it had been with Destiny 1. Instead, on both systems, I played Destiny 2 to just shy of a maximum-level character and then, suddenly, stopped. It’s no secret that the Destiny community at large isn’t happy with the current state of the endgame content. People have voiced their concerns, and Bungie is at least attempting to address those concerns. I’m more puzzled at my own behavior. I keep returning to the shared-world allure of Destiny. Over and over, since the release of the first game, I get excited when anything is added to the franchise, I play, and then I remember; I am done with this, the magic is gone. Destiny promises a persistent world, inviting me to stay there, exist in that space. I have repeatedly learned that my tastes, in the long term, lie elsewhere. Yet I always return, excited at the prospect that this time might be different. In the case of Destiny 2, it didn’t even have to offer me anything new. I tried it twice. I double dipped. And, stupidly, was surprised that when I bought and played the same game, I got the same result.