The Golden Age of the great and bountiful human empire has come to an end, and the Collapse has begun. All of the former colonies taken by humanity, with the aid of the Traveller’s benevolent alien sentience, are now being fought for by alien races on their own power trips. The Traveller’s near obliteration in order to end the Darkness that haunted them put humanity at risk, and while the Collapse sees the empire come to an end, the Traveller has, before going dormant, provided humanity’s survivors with a solution to their plight.
That’s the solution.
The Traveller’s last action is to awaken the Ghosts, living machines with the power to reanimate corpses, who will cohabit with them in their bodies, to create an undead army of Guardians. The god in the machine puts a ghost in your shell, and alas no sweet rest is found in death my friend, since if you’re dead, then you aren’t alive, and thus, you’re expendable. A corpse, dead in battle, is surely ready to fight again? Welcome back to the action!
But what is this life? If you were brought back to aid the living stay alive and bring death then what are you? Are you alive too? What is being alive now if it is not a natural state? Do you feel different, emptied, more full? Do you know who you are?
The game balances all of its cards on ignoring these questions, assuming subservience by the Guardian and moving on to the wars and conflicts you are to become part of. Was there a choice though, or was it like the steel grip of consciousness taking hold once more? Birth into life is no choice on your part and from all impressions, the raising of the undead armies by the Traveller was based on your merits as a warrior, not your intent to live again.
It is just assumed that you, Human, Awoken or Exo, (male or female flavour of course), are down for the fight. Do you have an independent consciousness? You are in a state of amnesia about your past, but fully able to perform with the physical skills desired by the military, you remember that training, but never get a chance to express your thoughts about it. All of your conversation in the game is handled by your own personal Jesus, the Ghost, part of you now. If they are your main conduit, your guide and tech assistant, what do you do?
Thinking about the game’s basic progression, you complete the tasks assigned to you as a Guardian, you try to be the most actively effective military operative possible. While this is the base design, there are plenty more things you could potentially do in this role, like jump up and down for hours, because of the agency you are given at play. It is you in control of the reanimated corpse.
In fact, this is how the game gets around the complicated ethics of the Traveller’s decision. Since really this is the case of two ghosts inhabiting one body, you and the actual Ghost, then it doesn’t matter as much. You want to take part in the tasks of a Guardian, because otherwise why are you playing the game? You want to kill and collect loot and so on because its enjoyable, and you can do it with friends, and all things considered on that end Destiny 2 is pretty fun and well designed. To think about the Guardian otherwise is to give in to the terrifying reality that the game proposes. If I grant this character anything other than being my avatar, me acting as a drone pilot and executing military orders for little boosts of joy at my home computer, then I allow the fact that an alien God rose a non-consenting, undead army of fallen soldiers to fight to reclaim the human empire, and that I am playing one of them.
Honestly, it’s a more compelling story to consider the implications of this, but since you aren’t given access to a backstory, origin or the mechanics of the Traveller/Ghost reanimation process it is up to the player to make these investigations into their Destiny. The apparent lack of ethical problematics associated with the Traveller’s actions written into the game, and the fact that pushing against this undead conscription is a villain trait for the fallen Guardian Dredgen Yor, raises the question of how the lead writers of Destiny 2 created this idealised fascist-imperial military faction and didn’t question their impulses. What kind of fantasy have they created? Where the dead are made to live again as the heroes of what exactly?
If my Awoken Hunter class Guardian, a teen goth who I’ve named ‘Dalton’ has anything to say about it:
“This whole thing fucking sucks. Why the fuck would I want to fight for an empire that I already died for once? Fuck this right-wing sci-fantasy ass bullshit, and now I’m immortal too, fuck, fuck you. Hey, fuck the Guardians and fuck you. Get the fuck out of my face. Fuck.”Dalton, Awoken Male, 19