With the release of The Taken King expansion, the Bungie team behind Destiny show off, yet again, that they understand diversity in gaming. That statement may come as a surprise, but have you ever stopped to notice how inclusive Destiny is? And did you notice that they improved upon that inclusiveness with the new updates and expansion?
It’s not surprising that few people are talking about it, because Destiny itself doesn’t make a big deal about the presence of women and minorities in-game. There are no gender politics, no awkward jokes at women’s expense. There are no racial stereotypes, no token black men.
Instead, it appears that humanity has united, quite logically, against the greater threat of the Darkness and the hostile species that arose in its wake.
Though one could argue that Destiny has very little story, and thus it is not surprising that there are no undertones of racial or gendered tensions, that argument still falls flat.
Destiny is a shooter, with a loosely militaristic chain of command. There are plenty of little insidious places to tuck away bias. For example, they could have had an all-male leadership, or not hired any voice actors of color.
Instead, one of the first important NPCs you meet is a woman, a black woman is one of the three leaders in the Tower and the voice acting cast includes Cree Summer, Gina Torres, Lance Reddick, Lennie James, Shohreh Aghdashloo, David Harewood and Erick Avari.
Women, in the world of Destiny, have leadership roles and menial roles. They are shopkeepers, mentors, leaders, guardians, ambassadors, robots and queens. These female characters never draw attention to their sex, because it is a non-issue. No one has trouble obeying their orders, no one feels they are demeaned by listening to a woman. These thoughts have no place in the world of Destiny.
And race? Destiny has my second-favorite character creation system of any game I’ve ever played. Some argue that it is too simplistic, that there aren’t enough choices. To those people, I show this picture:
Tons of customization options does not equal better character creation.
In Destiny, players can create a realistic character of color. Black, Asian, Latino: the options are there. And yet they can also make a fabulous purple person, or a seriously badass looking robot.
But back to races.
Do you know how hard it is in some of my favorite games to make my character look black, as opposed to just looking like a white person covered in chocolate?
No, you probably don’t. But it is really, really hard.
As opposed to:
And again, not only is there no mention of your character’s race, but we are subtly shown that people of many races live in the Tower, as NPCs of various races, genders and species wander around.
This might not seem important, but it really is. As someone who plays a lot of fantasy games, I am made painfully aware that my favorite character-creation choices were made just to appease me, not because character that look like this live in this world.
For example, let’s look at what happens in one of my favorite fantasy games of all time, Dragon Age: Origins.
In the Human Noble origin, you can create a brown-skinned Warden. However, her mother, father and brother will all still be white. It’s hilarious. But also a reminder that the game was made as a white-person’s fantasy.
For the record, Dragon Age II helped to address this flaw, and Dragon Age: Inquisition mended it completely by adding people of many races as background and speaking NPCS in abundance throughout the game, finally creating a diverse and welcoming environment.
In 2015, perhaps we can take it for granted that shooters feature playable female characters. But I have been playing games for a long time. I have had to wait for three Gears of War games before getting to play a female character. Call of Duty: Ghosts marked the first playable female character in the franchise’ multiplayer history. And let’s not forget Aliens: Colonial Marines, a game based on a movie franchise known for its badass women, which featured no playable female characters.
With the release of The Taken King, Destiny promised to add more of a story, along with tons of other changes to the gameplay. These changes could have revealed the fluke that was Bungie’s commitment to inclusivity. Instead, they added new female enemy bosses.
That’s right: Bungie improved upon the diversity in the game. Kudos, Bungie, please keep showing the world that including women and characters of color in games should be the norm.
Now if only we could convince everyone in the Destiny community to be a little more inclusive too… but that is a task for another day!
Special thanks to Twitter users @DanielleMcVo, @Beingbossy_, @Chupacaubrey, @havochq, @Jayonhavok, @Kinowolf, @Lenwe33, @MissDestructo, @SDFRiver and @Zombicidalmanic for tweeting pictures of your Guardians for this article!