Videogame Virgin: Diablo and Whack-A-Mole


(Editor’s note: In this bi-weekly feature, Pixelitis staffer Matt Brown shares his “down the rabbit hole” look into gaming history. Having admittedly missed what many consider “classics,” join him as he dives in head first. We ask that you just be gentle with him.)

I’m a big fan of carnival games. My father worked at a state fair when he was in high school and I guess I am my father’s son. I love tossing rings and swinging hammers and more than anything, I love whacking moles. The thing is, I couldn’t stop thinking about that while I was checking out Diablo for this post.

A little creepy crawly thing pops its head up and you hit it. Hit it dead. Granted sometimes its head isn’t so little, but regardless of how big it is, you knock its noggin all the same. The more noggins you knock, the better stuff you get to bring home with you. And whether that’s an enchanted sword or a large stuffed gorilla, the thrill is there all the same. I guess the main thing that I appreciate is the fact that you only have to buy Diablo the one time, but Whack-A-Mole keeps comin’ back to my wallet for more.

Now while this may be a wonderful, emotional connection for me to make between my childhood and my adult gaming life, it also leads me to my one and only critique of Diablo: I can’t get vested in the story. Maybe that was never the point, but I’m still sort of bothered by it. In between dialogue and cut scenes of any kind, I find myself uninterested with the events of the larger story. I’m just running around killing zombie/skeleton type things and I couldn’t care less about Lazarus or Diablo or Sanctuary or any of the rest of it. I just don’t. I want to but I really don’t.

Where Diablo really does have my attention is in loot collection. Leveling and loot in this game appeal to every bit of me that wants to be on Hoarders some day. I mean really, there’s so much stuff and I prefer to have all of it. It’s reminiscent of how I feel about tech expos and company keynotes; just things that make you salivate for all the things you can’t afford.

I guess there’s some part of me that never grew out of collecting carnival prizes. When I was in grade school, I was all about the aforementioned stuffed gorillas. The bigger the gorilla, the better, and now it seems I’m collecting all over again. So this dichotomy rules my experience with the game. The lack of emotional involvement is at constant war with the easy, addicting gameplay and leaves me spending hours on sweet questing swag with little hope for real emotional satisfaction in the end.

I’m pretty thoroughly conflicted on this issue. I feel like games we play these days are almost nothing without a story that can hook and draw us in. At least “serious” titles need that kind of investment to be successful. And here I’ve got this classic that I can’t seem to really fully commit to because it doesn’t have the characteristics of a more modern game. It’s a weird feeling, but it at least has that one thrill to it — that one rush when something new and shiny drops from a fallen foe. Diablo has that in droves, so I suppose just this once, that will be enough.

That’s where I think I fall. I want new and shiny things and I can’t help myself. I’m at peace with loving this game despite its flaws because I can’t help myself. I may have a serious, Whack-A-Demon type problem. Do they have support groups for that?


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Author: Matt Brown View all posts by

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