Fortuitous Ephiphaneia #2: Moths to the Flame


Moths to the Flame

Ever wonder how we got here? What I mean is, what drives us to play Diablo II, or any game for that matter. Even search out websites devoted to the game. And, what makes us come back time and again?

I know that the question has been asked before, but I am still waiting for a complete answer. Surely we are not all waiting around for the v1.10 patch like children waiting for our birthday party to start. There must be more to it than that. Maybe it is the variety mixed with the classic gameplay features that we have come to expect – how many different ways would you like to kill monsters today? So many classes, so many weapons, and so many skills all devoted to booting some bad guy butt. Just trying to play each character class through normal difficulty alone is time consuming enough. Add to that the fact that you need to know what you are doing to get a character through hell difficulty and you have really devoted a significant amount of time playing and learning those characters. I’m sure that re-playability (is that a word?) has some part to play. I have a stack of games that I no longer play just because they have lost their luster after a single conquest. Some of them have even become so dull or predictable that I haven’t even finished them.

Is it the forum community that keeps Diablo alive and kicking? We have forums for every type of game play and character type available. There is even a Diablo II forum dedicated to non-diablo topics! How is that for having your cake and eating it too? I’m sure that a good portion of the people on the forums don’t even play anymore, they just come to chat with the friends that they have made.

I don’t know how many people have told me that they want to find every set and/or unique item in the game. I know it is one of the factors that brings me back to play. Even if I haven’t played in a couple of weeks, it is so easy to just fire up the game and do a half dozen Mephy and/or Pindleskin runs in just a short time. Your odds of actually finding every item in the game on your own are actually worse than winning some state lotteries, but the game is already paid for and you just never know when you might get lucky. Ah, just once I would like to see a gold-lettered Giant Thresher laying on the ground.

Is it the online gaming experience that keeps people coming back for more? My intuition says no. The concept of battle.net play is awesome and the fact that it comes totally free with a purchase of your game is a big credit to Blizzard. But, there are still some issues to work out, too many people feel that they are being cheated or taken advantage of. Sometimes Battle.net gives me the feeling of being thrown into the wild west or some “Mad Max” chaotic world where you can die at any second: either from the “lag monster” or some other player who was suppose to be playing with you, rather than against you.

The analytical side of me believes that it is the fact that there are so many potential objectives to be achieved in the game. Whether people realize it or not, most of us are objective oriented and goal driven. We make mental, or sometimes physical, “lists” of things that we want to accomplish. If we don’t accomplish them, then we feel a sense of failure. Sure, it’s only a game, so we know that we can always come back to accomplish the goals that we set for ourselves, whether it be “taking all the character classes through hell difficulty”, or “getting to level 99 in single player (players 8 of course)”, or “collecting all the items in the game”. Regardless of the objectives that we set, we do eventually come back! To make things even more maddening, the truly successful people in life create new objectives after they accomplish the old ones and once you take a step down that path towards a new objective there is no turning back. It is a continuous cycle that drives us forward.

All of the above ideas may be true and they may contribute to why we play Diablo over other games, but none of them really answers the question of why we play games in a fantasy world rather than trying to improve our own. Don’t we all have some type of dragon to slay or demon to exorcise in our personal lives? Do we play these games to escape the harsh realities or external sources of stress in our daily lives?

A recent commercial uses the theme “live in your world, play in ours”. Maybe we resort to gaming as a way to simplify problems and change a fantasy world because we have a difficult time changing our own. If so, it makes a good outlet to blow off stress. Good and evil is a pretty straightforward concept in games and the solutions are usually just as simple and usually involve violence – he who strikes with the biggest sword or most devastating spell wins!

The real world isn’t so black and white, right or wrong, good or evil. The world in which we live in is very subjective and allows for interpretation of morals, ethics, and values which creates many shades of grey that we must balance our actions against. Being principle centered may help people to remove many of the grey areas and even simplify their choice of action, but it doesn’t envelop every situation that you may encounter.

Is gaming really just about entertainment, or is there some subconscious hunger that is being satiated with every goal and objective achieved. As with most things, the answers are probably as diverse as the people who enjoy gaming. Regardless of the answers, I enjoy it and thus I do it. Is pleasure synonymous with good? No, not really, most theologians would indicate quite the contrary. But, I reason that ridding the world of demons can’t be a bad thing either, whether they are in real life or in an imaginary one.

Disclaimer: Fortuitous Ephiphaneia is written by Drandimere (Paul J. Darling) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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