As I pointed out over the weekend, I have been playing Diablo III far, far too much over the past few days. It’s way too easy to sit down and get sucked into it for an afternoon if you have no other large pressing concerns, which actually plays into the Diablo series’s appeal to me. As you can guess from the title of the piece, playing the latest installment in the franchise has brought back some old memories of the previous two entries and caused me to think over what about them made them such great games for me. I often joke that I once lost an entire year of my life to the original Diablo, and that’s not much of an exaggeration. I’m not especially proud of it, nor am I truly ashamed of it. It is what it is, and there were very serious reasons for it.
I first got into Diablo back in 1999, when it had already been out for around four years. Pardon me a moment while the realization that that was 15 years ago washes over me. Anyway, 1999 was a complicated year for me–there was middle school and all its tiny hells, and that’s when my parents divorced. I know; boohoo, right? Diablo became an escape for me, as it did for many people during that time. I missed a lot of school, my grades came down quite a bit (which was unusual for me then), and I spent hours upon hours (day and night) living in the world of Sanctuary (if the name was even canon then) and fighting demons. It bears noting that I was never tempted to engage in Satanism or self-destructive behavior as a result of this game. On the contrary, Diablo made me even more curious about the Christianity I had been raised in and hadn’t yet felt alienated from.
But it was this curiosity, this simulated battle between pure good and pure evil, that captivated me. The idea that a world existed, even if it was tiny and only existed on my computer, where I had the power to save lives and affect the natural order of reality made me feel at peace with everything else that was going on around me. In Diablo, I could be an immensely strong warrior, an unparalleled sorcerer of frightening ability, or (when the mood struck) a sometimes scantily-clad female marksman. The character class selections were primitive at the time, yes, but I didn’t have to be me. I could create any back story I wanted for how my character ended up in the town of Tristram, following rumors that a great evil was stirring beneath its cathedral.
And I must re-iterate here, I played this game so very much. And I kept playing it until the second game came out later in 2000. Thankfully, I had moved on by that point to rededicating myself to my studies, reading books, and at least attempting a real-world social life, so I didn’t lose nearly as much time playing Diablo II as I did its predecessor. But there were many, many times in high school that were severe downers (most of us had such experiences), and my barbarian or druid character in Diablo II was always there, waiting for me to slip them back on like well-worn coats.
For me, role-playing games are what gaming is all about. I enjoy other sorts of games, to be sure, but RPGs are the core of my gaming career, if you will. I mentioned briefly in an earlier post that Final Fantasy X was a great help for me when I was younger, and I played it shortly after I got into the Diablo games. It fulfilled a similar need I felt. I don’t know if it’s sad or not, but I’ve always felt like I only find the true me when I’m interacting with a story full of heroes with very few limits placed upon them, whether in the games I play or the stories I read. And it’s no surprise that with the small struggles I’ve faced recently that I would find myself back in Diablo’s dungeons somehow.
Who feels me on this one? Let me know in the comments below.