By Joe Fisher
When my uncle died, my phone lit up. It wasn’t from a text or an awaiting voicemail, it was my messenger app for my Playstation 4. It read simply: “Uncle gone. RIP.”
I didn’t rush to call my father, I rushed for my gaming headphones. I grabbed my controller and launched the game “Destiny”, for the PS4. I knew my brother wouldn’t be far behind.
Destiny is a fantastical game that allows people from all over the globe to launch into a futuristic solar system at war. Aliens from all over the galaxy have invaded and are in a constant state of land-grabbing, fighting humans and each other in the process. Humans are in the vast minority in this war and only a small band of warriors called “Guardians” are what stands between humans and complete annihilation.
For a couple of years now my father, my brother and I have gone through countless adventures in this game from Earth to Mars to Venus. Smashing alien hordes, obtaining mystical objects and all while physically located in different parts of the globe. As I’m sure many of you know, it’s great fun. There’s really nothing like the feeling of saying to your own father, “Dad, try and snipe it from the ledge and take it out with a headshot.” Or asking my brother to perform his signature “Shotgun Party” maneuver to get us out of a jam. Countless times I’ve been in the middle of some mundane task like the dishes or the laundry and gotten an urgent PS4 Message from my brother: “Get in here!”. Right away I’d be whisked away from a domestic task on earth to a far away battlefield where my father and brother were pinned down by alien forces.
It isn’t just battlefields and gunplay. When my eight year old son wanted to interview my brother, a geologist, for his science project, he put on my headphones and met my brother in a bar at “The Tower”, the Guardians’ headquarters. When my father had to inform me and my brother of his travel plans he would do so next to the vault where we store our weapons. When I informed my father of the sad news that my son was moving with his mother to New York, I did so with us standing next to “Xür, Agent of the Nine” a purveyor of odd weapons and baubles.
So it only made sense that when my father gave us the details of our uncle’s death we were sitting where we usually sit, on a ledge at the tower at sunset, the last city on Earth glimmering below us. He told us of our uncle’s last days. How at the end of a long battle with cancer he had found God, believed in heaven, and was ready to take a journey far more brave than any of our adventures into the solar system.
In honor of our uncle’s memory we climbed into our ships and ventured into “The Archon’s Forge” where we were beset upon by wave after wave of malevolent aliens. My father played the “hunter” class: picking off enemies from the shadows while invisible. My brother played the “warlock”: sailing over enemies while raining bolts of fire down on them. I played the “titan”: leaping headstrong into oncoming ranks, without much of a plan as to my survival.
In the end it was an inadequate way to say goodbye to a loved one, but I’ve been to funerals and wakes both large and small and I can’t say I’ve ever attended one that felt like “enough”. I doubt an adequate way truly exists.
We’re not “gamers”. Truth be told, we’re not even very good at this game we constantly play. We’re just a family spread across the globe trying to use the mind-bending technology of our day to continue to talk, to laugh, and to fight off the darkness.
Joe is a writer living in Los Angeles. His plays have appeared in Los Angeles, Portland, New York, Dallas and Chicago. He has also worked on several feature film projects that he will not name because he is too embarrassed to admit he worked on them. He also has a son named Dash and a fish named Billy Bob.