How Destiny 2 Sheds Light on Mental Health

There’s more to Meditations than their replay ability.

Destiny 2 is good for a lot of reasons: it corrected a lot of the problems Destiny 1 had, improves on what the original did well and it has tons of replay ability. Part of that replay ability lies in the introduction of Meditations, where your Guardian can replay story missions for bigger and better rewards.

However, I believe that there is a deeper meaning to this. In short, what Bungie does with that particular feature is encourage self-care and mental health. To prove this, we’re taking a page from Game Theory’s book to look closely at Meditations and their real-world equivalent: namely, therapy after serious trauma.

Trauma from Ghaul

It’s no secret that what you and your Guardian went through would be enough to cause at least some type of psychological damage. After all, you can see how deeply it impacted the three Vanguard leads: Cayde-6 became more reckless than usual and Zavala now has guards at his Tower post and is in a strategically advantageous position with little chance of someone being able to get the jump on him. Ikora Rey’s impact is the most important aspect for this, and she will be talked about in length later on.

Your character fell off the Tower, was left for dead and was basically in a coma for two full days. After that, they wandered somewhat-aimlessly through now-enemy-controlled territory without the possibility of being resurrected. The first face they saw post-attack was the lifeless gaze of fellow Guardians, all torn to pieces without their Light.

Once back on their feet and on their way to taking back the Tower, they saw their three mentors near-death, fighting to protect said Guardian before both you and your Ghost took on Ghaul one last time. It can be implied that, if the Speaker is indeed dead, you were the first person to see their corpse.

No non-playable character in the story walked away without some form of scars; the same can be assumed for your Guardian.

Meditations and Ikora Rey

This is where the Meditations come in. On the surface, they’re meant for you to replay missions and score better loot and some Vanguard Research Reputation. There is, however, a deeper meaning lore-wise to it as well. In short, Ikora might be trying to not only to expand the Vanguard’s research, but also to help you and your Guardian work out the trauma and what could be lasting mental scars due to the main storyline.

Take a look at what I mean:

According to the in-game description seen in the screenshot above, the intention of Meditation is to “revisit this mission and reflect on its role in your recovery.”

Note that it says “recovery” and not “journey” or something else. You’re implied to be injured in that description, or to at least be somehow hurt by the events of the main storyline. Seeing as your Ghost can fix physical damage, it has to be something else. It has to be mental/emotional. Ikora is giving you the chance to start your healing process.

Out of the three Vanguard leaders, Ikora Rey was the brains of the operation, the smartest one in the room. Her Warlock powers also lent to a mind-over-matter strategy, giving her the edge intellectually in most fights. When the Light was taken from her, she was, arguably, the most lost of the three: she had her own crisis and ran off to Io, seeking refuge in the last Traveller-touched place to try to make sense of what was happening. She was the one asking the most philosophical questions, which only became more apparent as her crisis continued.

At times, she seemed to be the only one concerned about your mental state rather than just your physical form; it made sense for her to continue that concern post-Gaul, hence the Meditation that takes place literally right next to her.

I can only assume that the spinning wheel is supposed to calm you into a trance-like state to help you visualize the mission and remember it; there is some forms of therapy that do just that. Usually, it’s with a pattern of lights, but one can assume that the Destiny-equivalent is the contraption that Ikora has there, which you activate to start the mission.

How Ikora’s Mentality Helps Yours

One of the biggest reasons why it would be Ikora taking the helm of Guardian Therapist is because she seems to be the most overtly attempting to recover. In the Tower, you can hear her say a few things:

  • “Away, Darkness; I have no time for you now.”
  • “Up, out of the Dark.”
  • “I am not afraid of the Dark.”

It’s that first one that lends most to the theory that Ikora’s been dealing with trauma of her own: it has already been heavily implied that she was dealing with some form of crisis and even depression within the storyline. Now, she’s trying to push away those negative thoughts — that “Darkness” — along with whatever else might have happened to her while away on Io.

She knows she needs to heal and she assumes that you do, too. Heck, everyone needs some time to think over what happened, since life as everyone knew it almost ceased to exist. Everyone’s way of life was threatened once again, and this time was the closest Humanity has ever been to being wiped out. This is Ikora’s way of helping the hero: by making sure they are mentally and emotionally okay.

Mental health is important and Destiny 2 knows this

Overtly, Meditation missions are a cool way to get more loot. Covertly, they’re a nod to mental health being just as important to a person as physical health is, and gives your Guardian (and possibly, you as well) a chance to revisit challenging events and properly digest them in a healthy way. It’s a rare thing in a video game, for characters to care about the emotional impact of a game’s events rather than just sweep it all under the rug or attempting to cover it in a voice line or two.

I wish we could see more of this in video games, but I’m afraid that this will be one of the few times that we’ll see mental health and self-care in such a casual light — so casual that many may not even realize it’s there. I don’t think Destiny 2 is pioneering this, but I do think it’s yet another bright light in what the game has to offer. It gives the storyline an air of being more than just a string of missions; it has weight and you can see it through some simple Meditation.