Fundamentals of Immersion

Jun 04

Analyzing Destiny 2 with the Player Involvement Model

While reading Calleja’s In-Game I was struck by how successfully Bungie’s Destiny 2 incorporates the six methods of involvement. No matter the player’s taste or play style Destiny 2 has sharp, well-realized elements that are have the potential to fully involve a player.

Kinesthetic Involvement

Gameplay in Destiny 2 is primarily traversal and gunplay. Both elements are finely tuned and responsive. Traversal often involves massive leaps through otherworldly terrain; players are given unusual modes of movement such as mid-air hops, jetpack-like hovering, and a glide. Effective traversal involves mastering the movements, each of which have their own distinct feel and quirks.

Gunplay is one of Destiny 2‘s selling points. Guns, the primary means of interaction and reward, all feel and sound distinct. Guns possess statistics – while no gun is better or worse than others, their statistics dictate how quickly they can be aimed, reloaded, track enemies etc. Gathering guns and experimenting to find a gun that feels good to the player is a large component of the gameplay. In short, kinesthetic involvement is central to the Destiny 2 experience.

Spatial Involvement

Destiny 2 rewards exploration of game spaces. Like the multiplayer games Calleja discusses (like Counter-StrikeDestiny 2 has a competitive multiplayer mode in which knowledge of map layouts and details grants a competitive edge. Furthermore, exploration of the various planets uncovers secrets, unique areas. Each area is designed to feel lived-in with a strong history.

Shared Involvement

Destiny 2 takes place in shared space with other players and non-player agents. Enemies have patterns, and return to the map periodically on drop-ships (standing out from other games where defeated enemies simply return after a period of time).  Enemies have distinct tactics and utilize game spaces in attempts to outflank the player. Seperate from NPC shared involvement, Destiny 2 is largely a social game. Other players are always visible in game spaces pursuing their own objectives (which sometimes align with yours; some of the most thrilling moments come when strangers gather for impromptu battles with powerful enemies). No matter how the game is played Destiny 2 feels lived-in and dynamic.

Narrative Involvement

While the dialogue in the Destiny franchise is famously bad, the narrative is deep and well-seeded. Much of the storytelling in Destiny 2 is done through implication, with sharp-eyed players able to discovery secret locations and hidden details in the levels that hint at the larger narrative. Furthermore Destiny and Destiny 2 feature “the Grimoire”, short prose segments that can be found through gameplay or attached to rare gear, that are in-universe story elements. Each Grimoire entry is part of a short story that reveals plot elements which provide context for the action of the game. The lore of Destiny is deep and comprehensive, and the main plot of each game barely scratches the surface. Involvement in the Destiny lore is a large component of macro-involvement, as the community is constantly analyzing and discussing the content of the Grimoire.

Affective Involvement

Every element of Destiny 2 is designed to elicit emotional engagement. Every interaction is a positive feedback loop, keeping players involved regardless of the activity they are taking part in. The most basic loop, the engagement and defeat of enemies, is made rewarding by the satisfying sound of the gun, informing the player of the damage they are inflicting, and the beautiful animation and sound design of the animations when an enemy is defeated (personally, the tremendously satisfying pop of enemy heads is one of the things that sold me on the game initially). Enemies occasionally drop loot, which is a microcosm of the thrill of gambling – wondering what goodies you’ll unlock when you pick up the glowing loot orb. Even destroying junk loot is made pleasurable by the sound effects and climbing currency numbers. At a wider view, the reward loop of missions is clear, with structured adventures granting powerful rewards. Even the player’s gameplay schedule is structured as a reward loop, with “weekly” rewards of powerful goods available for completing extended tasks over long periods of time.

Ludic Involvement

While character ability customization is minimal, gear loadouts are potentially endless. Finding the most effective and efficient weapon and ability combinations is a constant task in Destiny. And, of course, the physical mastery of the gameplay mechanics is a core part of the game.


Destiny 2, intentionally or not, engages with every element of Calleja’s involvement theory and provides multiple angles for players to become immersed. As they get comfortable with the game and need not mindfully engage with any one involvement, they move to the centre of the proposed Player Involvement Model where Calleja’s incorporation can take place.

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