Published on: Mar 8, 2015 @ 9:06
Two different cultures can be entire worlds apart. I learned this the hard way when I first taught in China. Stepping back on US soil after such a concentrated stint somewhere else was, without a doubt, the most jarring experience I’ve ever had.
And now here I am again, only this time it’s because of the Destiny community and the culture that surrounds it – so different from the world I’ve come from, so jarring once again.
I need to understand this phenomena. I want to know what shapes the Destiny community’s culture, and how we improve what we have here at Planet Destiny.
No culture is perfect. We all have glaring flaws, if we just know where to look. But even with flaws, some cultures feel like home, and that’s special. That’s worth fighting for.
That’s why it’s time to dissect this beast with scalpel in one hand and magnifying glass in the other. We’ll dig around; see the good, bad, maybe a little ugly, and find what we can improve along the way.
What is Destiny Culture?
As kids we all went from our parent’s homes to our friend’s and saw how drastically the game changes. “I can’t use that word at the dinner table?” and “You want me to clean my dish before putting it in the washer?”
Welcome to the lawless land where rules and regulations can’t touch us.
You see, culture is how people really respond to the laws. Culture is made up of unwritten expectations and appropriate responses that are acted out only in behavior. It must be learned, unlearned, and re-learned as we transition from one culture to another.
Those unspoken laws are vitally important – our comfort and happiness depend on them. If you don’t understand Destiny culture you’ll feel like an alien rejected at every turn, but if you fit – if you really belong – oh what a pleasure every day becomes.
That’s why our happiness hinges on understanding what creates culture.
What Creates Culture?
Every culture has an originator. Like the Black Heart of the Vex (though hopefully less evil), it sets a tone and connects all the members into a cohesive whole. That’s how communities are born.
And so with Destiny, we have a game concocted by developers, and those developers are the originators of a culture. They set a tone, and others take that tone and create their own smaller communities, each with a different culture.
Planet Destiny is just one of those communities, and the culture it creates is based on several factors. These factors can make a culture an inhospitable wasteland, or a dream, which is why they are so important to our happiness here.
For anyone who’s visited our forums, you’ll notice our focus is on community involvement and inclusivity, which is why we welcome new members with open arms. We offer awards for doing awesome stuff around the forum, like submitting community creations or being friendly & helpful. We don’t have moderators because we barely have any rules, and we don’t have rules because we’ve found that the community is extremely well behaved.
Nature of the Beast
Destiny, the game itself, is the biggest clue we have of what sort of culture might grow from it.
Whether it is co-operative play in PvE or team-based PvP, most people are attracted to Destiny because they can enjoy it with friends. This creates a natural camaraderie among peer groups.
Small peer groups tend to act like gravitational fields that draw more and more people in. They make outliers more comfortable in raids and PvP teams, so individual players feel at ease to open up and become well-functioning members of the group, even when they’re pulling that trigger on the perfect shotgun blast to the chest.
This would be your editors, writers, podcasters, and everyone else operating behind the scenes of a website. And really, this is the most powerful influence of culture.
The reason is simple: leadership sets the precedents that become ingrained in a community’s self-identity. Leaders set behavioral expectations in a culture through their behavior when dealing with the community at large, and behaviors are more important than rules.
If you’ve ever posted something to a community and had it deleted without explanation or looked at the comments section on a site and seen spam messages everywhere, that comes down to leadership’s actions.
While community response is often a symptom of a problem rather than the cause, it can also cause a culture shift if a certain type of threat springs up.
Sometimes I wonder if the burnout crowd in Destiny leans towards this extreme at times. You see, this threat starts with seeds of discontent that spread slowly and encompass more and more people. It usually leads to sarcasm or that particular brand of humor that disguises itself as, “Well, at least I’m honest,” as it proceeds to crush everything because it’s miserable where it is.
And then there is a healthy community – people reaching out to help newcomers, raid groups forming through LFG, comments regulated more by the community than the leadership (via votes).
So which is Destiny in? A healthy community, or one coughing up blood? Some signs can help us determine that answer.
Evaluating Destiny’s Culture
How can we tell if Destiny’s culture is bad?
It’s really not so hard to tell a bad culture from a good one. Look first at the community; of course you can’t see it all, but PD’s community is a good starting point.
Evaluate the quality of discussions occurring on a daily basis. Are comments generally negative or overtly critical of small matters?
People are surprisingly level-headed in a stable culture. Good cultures realize that information, even bad information, will be filtered through other like-minded people in the community and anything harmful will be naturally weeded out.
What Should We Do?
If you’ve evaluated Destiny’s culture and find it to be unpalatable, you have a few options.
First, you can abandon ship. Sometimes what seems like a bad culture is actually just not right for you. Maybe your time with Destiny has come to an end and the community no longer holds anything for you. That’s fine, but you’d do yourself a disservice to stay. Make a new culture somewhere and follow the list below to ensure it’s good.
Or, if you love the people you’ve met in Destiny’s community (despite our flaws) but see room for improvement, you can choose to make it better. It’s really not that difficult, and it works slowly through small steps.
Here are a few ways to bring about change:
Time is your ally in this fight, and the sooner steps are taken, the better. Accepted behaviors are learned over time, which means they are unlearned over time as well.
C.S. Lewis once said, “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on,” and the same can be said of culture.
There is no use going forward until you’ve gone back and changed the root behaviors.
Starting today, find like-minded people in the community and devote yourselves to setting some of these other changes into motion. As Eris Morn puts it in her slightly crazed voice, “There’s nothing you can’t do now, Guardian!”
Nurture a Better Nature
If we look inwardly at the nature within our small group and find issues that need to be addressed, then you can be certain that those issues are only magnified when they come in contact with the community at large.
What this means is we have to nurture a better nature in ourselves. With your friends, make it a habit to question learned behaviors.
Do you respond to comments with sarcasm or genuinely useful conversation? Are you constantly complaining about RNG or burnout and ignoring the redeeming qualities?
We must not forget that it’s easier to see flaws in other things than flaws in ourselves, but a healthy community must practice what it preaches. Ask the tough questions of yourself first so your behavior becomes a living example of change. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
Choose Fire Extinguishers Wisely
There are many ways to stop a flame from spreading, but not all are helpful. If there are particularly hot issues in the community that set fire to the discussion, ask which of these scenarios is better.
First, we can try to smother the fire. Just throw everything we can on it. The problem: sometimes lighter fluid gets lost in the mix and things blow up. When we respond vehemently to comments, sometimes we’re just feeding the beast.
Then again, we can withhold air and watch the whole thing die of neglect. This method is preferable when the community member has proven to be hotheaded in the past.
Never underestimate the power of deprivation when it comes to dealing with trolls. But if the concerns are legitimate and the fire is burning because some things need a good refining fire, feel free to smother the thing – just make sure you look at what’s in your hand before you toss it.
A Place to Call Home
Destiny has done more for me than many other games. I’ve been in other communities and I feel like what Destiny’s at large has created is rather spectacular. But it isn’t perfect.
We all have room to grow and things that need to change, but my hope is this has given us a better understanding of how these things are cultivated so we can begin to make this place more like a home.
Because that’s what a good culture is: a Tower to hang our hats in. Sure, there might be a few weeds springing up in the Iron Banner’s courtyard, but they seem to be rooting themselves out when the community operates as it should – picking the bad ones and leaving the rest to grow strong in the light of the Traveler.
And like a home, when things are bad, there’s always a way to make them better again.
But when things are flourishing – ah to know that feeling – well, you just might find you’ll never want to leave home again.