Thoughts on Video Game Nostalgia: Diablo

Diablo title image found at
Diablo title image found at

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.

Full view of Tristram from the original Diablo found at
Full view of Tristram from the original Diablo found at (Click for larger image).

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.

Diablo II character selection screen found at
Diablo II character selection screen found at

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.


Weekend Music – The Tristram Theme from Diablo

Happy Saturday, everyone. I’ve been playing Diablo III a lot lately and it’s inspired a bit of nostalgia for the old games. Because of that, I thought this would be an appropriate choice for today’s music treat.

The Tristram theme was composed by Matt Uelmen and is the property of Blizzard Entertainment.

Thoughts on Video Game Nostalgia

Video Game Nostalgia

A few days ago I was digging around in my game collection because I was feeling a bit nostalgic and wanted to look over some of the old games I used to play religiously when I was younger. As you can see in the picture, I tend toward real-time strategy games and fantasy RPGs. Also, I used to be really bad about keeping up with disk cases.

I can’t even begin to relate the number of hours I spent playing through the original StarCraft and Diablo many, many times over. It’s hard to imagine now, but back in the day (even with the lag) those Blizzard games had some of the most reliable (but still a little dangerous) multiplayer around that didn’t depend on something like GameSpy or Kali. (Do those even still exist?) With Diablo and then Diablo II, I’m honestly surprised I ever made it out of grade school; those were some seriously engrossing games.

From there, I discovered Bioware’s early games and, by extension, Planescape: Torment, the most underrated game of all time. I’m embarrassed to admit that, even after all these years, I still haven’t beaten Torment, either Baldur’s Gate game, or either Icewind Dale game. I love the gameplay and the stories and have started and pursued multiple playthroughs, but either life or an in-game bug always seems to get in the way. Maybe I can finally go back and change that one of these days when I have the time.

By the time I made it into high school, there were more console games that actually held my interest. It was a bumpy ride in my relationship with games at this stage; I could never afford a good gaming PC and I never developed any Nintendo nostalgia, so I was free to love whatever games actually appealed to me.

My first real console was my ancient (and still running) Playstation 2. With it came my discovery of the Final Fantasy series, particularly Final Fantasy X (as pictured above), the first game in the franchise that I actually beat. If you’ll all pardon the hokeyness, FFX came into my life at a time when such an engrossing and emotional story actually made an impact. The ideas of isolation, loss, of building a new family out of the people around you who have stuck with you, and of love taking hold even in the darkest of times really spoke to teenage me. Hell, those things still speak to me.

By the time I made it to college I’d been exposed to my friends’ XBoxes and various social games that didn’t really appeal to me. I rediscovered Bioware, though, and Jade Empire quickly became one of my favorite games of all time–it is certainly my favorite game from the original XBox. The underlying mythology, based in part on existing Chinese legends, was endlessly compelling. I couldn’t stop exploring this world and interacting with its inhabitants. After all of the fantasy I had experienced that was Western-based, something in that vein with solid Chinese influences was a nice change. I was never disappointed by this game, and I hate that Bioware has never returned to the property. I once joked with a friend that they might as well figure out a way to connect this world with the Dragon Age one because that might be the only way we would get to see anything else.

What do you think of my old games? I know I don’t have anything particularly ancient or valuable, but these are my treasures that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) playing. Let me know your thoughts on these games or any others you may have enjoyed in the comments below. You may be wondering what sorts of games I play today, and I can say there are still a lot of similarities in terms of genre. I’ll return to this in a later post.

Tweet me @quaintjeremy.