Diablo II is a lot of things to me.
In late 2000 I’d just upgraded from the old family computer to a brand new one I got for my 13th birthday, and Diablo II was among the first games I installed on it. My brother had found the CD abandoned in the college computer lab he worked-studied in, and decided to give it to me. The expansion pack, Lord of Destruction, was the first game I bought with my own money, after I convinced my sister to drive me to the store so I could get it without my parents knowing.
A lot of that was driven by my friends. You see, Diablo II was The Game in middle school, and if you didn’t play it you were a nobody. So, oddly enough, though I didn’t socialize much through the MMOs that had come before, Diablo II was my social awakening. I expanded my circle of friends because of this game, downloaded AIM and got into online chatting to organize gaming sessions, learned about fair play and strategizing together and planning around everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
Diablo II also helped further develop my critical eye for games. If Unreal is a game I hate despite it representing a genre I love, Diablo is the opposite: a game I adore even while finding the hack-and-slash, loot-centric, grind-fest genre uninspiring to say the least. To figure out how that could be possible, I had to take a hard look at what the game actually offered and what I saw in it. Spoiler: it’s not the gameplay.
Everything else in Diablo II is perfection — the visuals, the music, the voice acting, the story, the world-building. All of those elements are so gosh dang good that I was willing to suffer through the dreary garbage busywork that masqueraded as gameplay just to keep soaking in the atmosphere and get to the next story beat. And I was willing to do that a dozen times over, which is how many times I must have beaten this game back then.
If you didn’t already believe they were, Diablo II is one of the greatest cases for games as art. They aren’t all about fun; not just a silly hobby for kids. Even a game that involves approximately 0% fun can be worth playing! Thanks for the lesson, Blizzard!
Diablo II is, in my very humble opinion, the last of the great Blizzard games before they went flying off the rails. 2000 is bittersweet to me as a Blizzard fan, because from this point on I fell out of love with them very fast and very hard. But we’ll get to that later.