Toxicity is an unfortunate by-product of most media franchises – it is often an unavoidable part of fandom and community, where one group sinks to the depths, threatening to drag all others to the bottom so they may drown together.
This is something that the Destiny community has had to wrestle with over the last few days, as more discussion and debate have occurred regarding the subject of toxicity and developer harassment throughout social media. Like all other communities on the internet, it is undeniable that Destiny has its ‘bad apples’, those who would do harm or malpractice against others within the same community, but recently they have been able to receive the spotlight due to several decisions and consequences surrounding Destiny.
Whether for better or for worse, people have started speaking out on the toxic nature of certain individuals in the Destiny community, and how their actions have impacted not only other members of the community but also developers. These discussions have been heated, with some unsure of where they sit, or where they should pin the blame.
However, with difficulty comes change, so will we see any positive change within the Destiny community as a result of this purge? I hope so.
Check out some of our other Destiny 2 content here at KeenGamer:
How Did the Destiny 2 Community Get Here?
There isn’t one single definitive point where the toxicity began with Destiny: as with most communities, it just sort of happened one day, many years ago, and has kept growing since.
A lot has happened to act as that catalyst too. While making Destiny, Bungie has shifted between acting as an Activision-owned studio (with the stigmas that come attached) to going independent to being acquired by Sony. The release cadence of Destiny has changed from bi-yearly expansions and expansion passes to season passes and an a-la-carte seasonal model. The game is constantly changing and adapting, and that change sometimes means moments of discomfort.
Discomfort and frustration have been the primary causes of what has led us here. They have stood side-by-side as parts of the community for many years: where some will praise Bungie or their new releases, there will be those to cast doubt. This is normal, and sometimes Bungie even deserves the critique, but it has been mounting as of late. Rising.
While we cannot pin down every moment and every controversy, we do know how the most recent conversations regarding harassment and toxicity occurred, and it all began with Bungie employee and Sandbox Lead on Destiny 2, Kevin Yanes.
The Destiny community is a very privileged community when it comes to communication.
Every week, we are treated to a decently long article on the official Bungie website, known as This Week At Bungie, where they relay information to us, including known bugs, upcoming content or just community sentiment, by one of the Community Managers at Bungie. In addition to this, these CMs and other employees regularly engage with fans on social media sites such as Twitter and Reddit, answering questions or providing clarification. We are in a special position… but it’s that position that allows us to become blind to it.
For many, we have taken this communication for granted, assuming that no matter what we will receive updates from Bungie. That idea was tested during a conversation between Kevin Yanes and a player during the early weeks of Season of the Haunted.
Kevin Yanes is the Sandbox Lead for Destiny 2, one of the many people responsible for the super cool space magic we can perform as Guardians. He was one of the most transparent developers, someone who was willing to talk with the community about certain problems or issues. The team had already brought forward a big update for Solar 3.0, aiming to make it work better for Warlock and Titan players who were critical of the new element. In a thread discussing this, someone asked Kevin if the Destiny 1 Titan Exotic Twilight Garrison, an Exotic chest piece that allowed an in-air dash, would return to Destiny 2. Kevin decided to answer the question, one which presumably had been asked for many years, and the answer was a straight ‘No’. Air mobility with dashes had become associated with Warlock’s in Destiny 2, and the team at Bungie wished to keep it that way.
There are legitimate complaints to be had at this decision: disappointment that a fan favourite Exotic will never return or the decision to focus only one class on such air techniques (however Kevin also specified that this never meant that Titans would not receive air tech in the future) being two primary ones. Those legitimate concerns, however, were wiped away the moment that he started receiving death threats and harassment from members of the community, outraged at the fact that we weren’t getting back… a chest piece.
Quite understandably, Kevin deleted all his Tweets at that point. Due to the actions of a rotten few, the Destiny community lost a vital source of information and resources. More importantly, however, Kevin had to undergo untold amounts of harassment and hate because he answered a question honestly – he did exactly as asked – but because that answer wasn’t what people wanted, he was drowned in a sea of hate. At the time, many Destiny content creators and employees at Bungie stood up in defence of Kevin, decrying any abuse and harassment, especially over something as ridiculous as a single chest Exotic.
Many wanted to believe that this was an isolated incident, that we could move on.
The State of Destiny 2 PvP
Destiny 2 has big problems with its PvP game mode, The Crucible.
Perhaps the most important complaint of them all is that the mode had not received any substantial updates outside of the introduction of Trials of Osiris in over 3 years. The last map added to the game before this season was released alongside the Shadowkeep expansion, 3 years ago. In fact, the game had even lost maps due to content vaulting, with very little replacing them in turn.
Add on to this the negative critical reception of Trials of Osiris at its launch in Season of the Worthy, with many deeming it as a failure for coming out ‘half-baked’, the general lack of rewards in the competitive playlist since the removal of Pinnacle weapons, lobby balancing issues, matchmaking issues, the list could honestly go on. Crucible has a lot of problems, legitimate ones that can be discussed and critiqued: Destiny is not above criticism.
The main problem here was how people handled that disappointment. As more time passed without a significant update, frustration turned to jaded anger.
Now that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel regarding PvP, with some substantial changes having come to the core game mode as of late. Trials, Iron Banner and Competitive (coming in the following seasons) are getting touched up and even with the introduction of the first new map in almost 3 years, many people are still holding on to that anger.
None of this excuses harassment, but it may go to show why people were willing to look the other way for so long: these are explanations, not excuses.
This all bubbled to the surface last week in a thread on Twitter, one which would receive the ire and attention of the entire community.
The Inciting Incident
Last week, a since-deleted Twitter user made a post commenting on how the Destiny community would love it if Bungie gave us more communication surrounding PvP, perhaps even having a PvP dedicated CM or section in the TWAB. Many users were quick to point out, however, that we did receive a decent amount of communication and that just the previous month, Kevin Yanes had been harassed off of Twitter for communicating with the community.
Other members of the community then began digging around this person’s Tweets and how they previously interacted with the community, which included a lot of posts of harassment and hate towards Bungie devs. Several tweets downplayed the actions of the community managers, calling their jobs easy and saying they did absolutely nothing when for several years, Bungie Community Managers have been at the forefront of hate and harassment as the face of Bungie: many people vent their frustrations to them, which unfortunately includes their anger.
Perhaps the most recognisable community manager, dmg04, responded specifically to this thread commenting on several of the points made. Another reply he made later on in the day showcases how these kinds of discussions and how toxicity has affected not only his life but his co-workers’ lives too.
The original user disputed some of the points dmg made, in a way that many deemed as condescending, before deleting their account shortly afterwards.
It's been a hard spot to be in.
Confront the abuse in an effort to stop it but potentially open yourself (and the people you care about) up for more harm, or quietly receive endless amounts of harassment? https://t.co/UmeYmSX78u
— dmg04 (@A_dmg04) July 18, 2022
This is the inciting incident as to why we are discussing toxicity in the Destiny community. Many members, including some content creators, took it upon themselves to lambast this individual for their lack of foresight and hypocrisy. Others chimed in that doing this was a way of punching down, and that by calling this person out, they were only causing more damage and that they should be blocked and ignored instead.
Other events and conversations would be had over the following days, with more posts being made and arguments over what we should do with trolls and toxicity in the community.
Muddying the Waters of Criticism in the Destiny Community
One of the most difficult parts about these conversations is that, on some level, you kind of get where these toxic people are coming from.
They complain about the state of PvP, about how Bungie seems unfocused sometimes, and how PvP feels ignored and anaemic. They make the same complaints about the same guns and broken Exotics that you do, they bemoan the lack of content and maps as you do. They share that sense of frustration as you do.
As a result, many of them get defenders, people who sympathise and agree with them. They may not believe that harassing devs or undermining their jobs is the right way to go about it, but they are willing to defend them out of a sense of solidarity: ‘We share in the frustration of feeling ignored by Bungie’. Many will point to the lack of content as a way to excuse their actions, when, once again, in reality, the lack of content is simply an explanation, not an excuse.
Hatred, harassment and abuse have no place in any community, but certainly not the Destiny community.
Destiny has a lot to criticise, it is far from a perfect game. Some meta weapons or armour stay dominant for too long, the DCV has hurt the game significantly, the New Light experience is frankly abysmal, seasons are beginning to hit a lull, crafting makes certain parts of the game obsolete, and levelling up crafted weapons is boring, core playlists are unrewarding, there is so much you could say about Destiny. This product is not perfect, far from it, but, we shouldn’t allow real criticism to be stolen away and used to hide the actions of abusive people.
Legitimate criticism is corroded when attached to toxic personalities, morphing both parties into something else: it hurts actual criticism and critique of the game because it is now associated with being toxic as opposed to simply being feedback, and it also emboldens those toxic individuals. In fact, Bungie has even confirmed that we now receive less information and communication as a result of harassment towards employees like Kevin Yanes and the community managers.
These people can hide their actions with a veil of relatability – they share the same views as you, someone frustrated with the state of PvP, and you can sympathise with that frustration. They prey upon that connection, no matter how taut it may be, allowing them to continue spewing harassment while hiding it under the guise of ‘criticism’.
We should all be against death threats and direct harassment, but the longer we keep allowing these people to hold the spotlight, to get attention for their ‘hot-takes’ or hurtful remarks, the longer they will be a problem. Is the answer right now truly just to block them and move on? Stay silent and ignore their actions?
Toxic Assumptions Within Destiny’s Community
A key complaint that results in this level of toxicity is often that Bungie is not listening to our complaints.
Due to the state of PvP and the lack of communication from Bungie (whether due to the negative actions of a few or if they just genuinely don’t have anything to announce) many are quick to assume that nothing is actually happening. They see the high employee headcount and the empty spaces in the TWAB where they assume discussions on meta weapons or PvP balance could go and assume the worst.
In reality, none of us knows. Game development is not a science – honestly, it’s more like magic. We do not know what it takes to change an Exotic like Omnioculus: what does removing its damage resistance actually do? Will it become neutered in PvE for the sins of PvP? Will it cause any Telesto-tier butterfly effects that ruin other parts of the game? A simple fix will never be simple.
Additionally, many people have simply stated that they wish to be informed when changes are being made, even if nothing concrete is set in stone. Bungie did this before, and we turned it into a meme.
‘We’re listening’ was the developers’ way of telling us that they were working on something, that it was coming and we just had to be patient. Players got tired of hearing that, believing that it actually meant the opposite, and so began to make jokes about it. When those messages stopped, people once again continued to ask for more communication.
There is a risk here in labelling the Destiny community as one giant hive-mind because, at the end of the day, it isn’t. People have contrasting views on certain topics, people believe in one way or another and there are enough groups that are equally as loud. It must be difficult trying to balance that, drawing the line between game health and player feedback. It isn’t something I envy, and it is a fact of life that Victoria Tran, the community director at Innersloth, spoke up on in response to a tweet from dmg.
3) "I've been a player for x years! You never listen!"
– Are you sure??
– Are you sure your issues translate to the larger community
– Not getting immediate confirmation/changes ≠ not listening
– Are you sure this one dev you're harassing has the power to make these decisions
— Victoria Tran 🧋 (@TheVTran) July 18, 2022
Game development is hard and sometimes I wonder if Bungie regrets giving players as much freedom to communicate as they have. The majority of the community will be forever grateful for the TWABs, the developer insights, and the replies to hot topics, but it is undeniable that it has resulted in problems for the dev team.
So where do we go from here?
A Rose and Its Thorn
For a long time now, toxicity in the community could be pictured as a thorn on a beautiful rose.
The Destiny community can be so welcoming and so loving, such a helpful and amazing place to be. It has some of the most transparent developers and passionate game makers, people who really care about their craft and their community.
Then there’s this thorn. This toxic, corroding presence has been stuck in Destiny’s side since the start. They are people who share the same beliefs as you, are frustrated at the same fights as you, and are just as annoyed at the Healing Meta and Classy Restoration as you.
We have chosen to ignore this thorn for a long time now. Just ignore it and move on, it isn’t that bad, right?
Now? When developers have been pushed off social media and avenues of communication have been severed; when hate becomes so normalised that it is defended; when we begin to forget what genuine criticism is and begin labelling everything as toxic; maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and rid ourselves of this thorn.
It will be difficult. Many will oppose a more aggressive stance by Bungie or by the community, seeing it as only adding fuel to the fire. However, it is clear that being quiet and trying to ignore it has gotten us nowhere: developers and community managers have suffered in relative silence for years, and the quiet has only bolstered the actions of those involved in spreading this hate. We may need to try something else.
And it seems like we are.
Bungie recently filed a lawsuit against a Twitch Streamer called Luca Leone (known online as MiffysWorld) for evading 13 bans on his account due to cheating as well as harassing developers. In a direct quote from the lawsuit, ‘Leone has also repeatedly made threats targeting Bungie and its employees, tweeting about his desire to “burn down” Bungie’s office building and declaring that specific Bungie employees were “not safe” given Leone’s intent to move into their neighbourhood.’ Bungie is seeking $150,000 ‘for each copyrighted work infringed’ and $2500 statutory damage for every instance that Leone deployed cheating software.
Since this more drastic turn towards legal action, many accounts that people deem as toxic have been made private. People are closing their doors in fear of the repercussions of their toxic actions. In future, this is likely how Bungie wishes to handle these events, as opposed to staying quiet or allowing the community to act as judge, jury and executioner.
Still, we need to work harder as a community. The alternatives have already played out before our eyes, and it ends in the community suffering alongside the developers. Whatever side of the fence you find yourself on, you must believe that something has to change. The fact that all this is playing out during a season where the main talking points are trauma and being able to grow past it with the aid of others, is a comforting thought.
As Dylan Gafner, dmg04 himself, said: ‘I hope the continued conversation around harassment in the gaming space leads to action, improvement, and healing. For employees, for community members… for everyone.’