I have fallen in love with (and become hopelessly addicted to) many games over the years. We had an Atari when we were kids, and even had a console specifically for playing Pong that was bought before I was born, but was still functional when I was old enough to start playing games. My oldest brother also had a series of gaming set-ups in the years that followed. He had a ColecoVision with Donkey Kong on it (woo!), an Amiga, and perhaps my favorite, the C64. We spent a fair amount of time watching our brothers game, but my younger sister and I also played quite a lot together. I actually started to list our favorite C64 games here, but it is a rather long list, so I’ll cut it down to the top three I remember. We were masters of Impossible Mission, we loved Hitchhiker’s Guide (imagine how much more we loved it after we finally read the books!), and then there was Hacker. This game was like a project for us. I remember parking our sleeping bags on the floor in front of the basement tv, with our sharpened pencils poised over fresh pads of paper to keep track of our progress through the game, determined that that night was the night we’d finally beat the damn thing. We never did, but it was always fun trying.
Our dad worked at IBM so we always had PCs around the house as well. The first PC game that I remember really diving into was called “Castle,” and sadly, I can’t find a link anywhere about it. It was an adventure game with very simple graphics. (Look out for that letter S! It’s a snake!) I also have really fond memories of Wishbringer. Oh my god, did we love this game. It was a text adventure, and because we’d gotten our copy of it from a friend, we didn’t have all the maps and other stuff that came in the box. So, we we drew the maps ourselves as we imagined them (we did this with later games, too, even if we did have the real maps). In this game, you were ordered by the postmaster to deliver a letter to a woman who lived in a magic shop at the other side of town. You had to use various tricks to navigate past the obstacles in town (go to the graveyard first to find a bone that you can use to distract a mean dog later, and also pick up a broom, though I don’t remember what that was for), and it had all the usual frustrations of a text adventure. You had to enter the commands precisely, and sometimes even obvious word substitutions were unacceptable. We never made it through the whole game until many years later (after finding a walkthrough on the budding internet) — we had always gotten bogged down at a particular part, because we couldn’t come up with the right phrase to get the game to let us continue. (I don’t remember what it was, ultimately, except that it was amazingly simple, and we were sure we’d typed the phrase in before.) We still had a great time playing the game though, and never minded starting over when we got stuck. It really sparked our imaginations.
We got a Nintendo system shortly after they came out, followed by the Super Nintendo, and my younger sister and I also played with these endlessly. I remember summers where she and I would come home from a long day at the pool, sit in front of the tv, and play the Mario and Zelda games for hours on end, usually while listening to Phantom of the Opera. (Hee.)
I was away at grad school when my sister bought the N64, and I didn’t own a console myself for quite some time. I still continued to follow her leads on computer games though, and the first PC game I bought for myself after I moved away from home was Creatures. The day I got it, I stayed up until 4am playing it and had to force myself to go to bed so that I would make it to work at a reasonable time the next day. I also remember buying 7th Guest, which had some good creepy stuff in it. I never got particularly addicted to it, but I liked the puzzles and it had a cool atmosphere. I never finished it either. Similar games that followed (Myst, etc) intrigued me, but I never pursued them.
After my husband and I started dating, I started playing games more regularly. He introduced me to Civ II (which I also played like crazy), and when he picked up the Blizzard battle chest to get Starcraft, and he gave me the copies of Warcraft II and Diablo that came with it. (Awesome battle chest, eh?) I didn’t get much into Warcraft II, though I did play through a couple of the scenarios. I knew from watching him play Starcraft and Command & Conquer that those types of games at higher levels required more tactical thinking than I was interested in, so I naturally gravitated toward Diablo. It really appealed to me from the start. I loved the mood, and sometimes would play at night, with my room dark and headphones on to totally immerse myself in it. I’ll admit I didn’t replay Diablo at all though. I played through the whole game once on one character and then put it away. My roommate showed me Roller Coaster Tycoon, and that became my game of choice for quite some time.
And then along came Diablo II and its expansion.
Of all the games I’d played up until that point, Diablo II was by far the most consuming. We played it for years. I think the main reason for this was that it was not just my husband and I that were into it, we had a couple of local friends that also played, plus my husband’s brother, and a couple of my siblings also dipped into it a bit briefly. Initially we all just played solo, but once we figured out how to use battle.net to play online, things really took off… we started playing a lot.
We came up with all kinds of crazy ideas for experimental characters and groups in Diablo II, just like we now do in WoW, and it always kept the game fresh for us. I recently stumbled upon an old e-mail exchange between four of us outlining a plan to get through to Nightmare difficulty (or maybe it was Hell — I can’t remember now), and start over in this more hardcore version of the game naked and untwinked. We’d always be partied when we played, and fight through the challenge of being terribly undergeared as a group. As I recall, it was a very short experiment because we totally got our butts kicked.
I didn’t get too much into the gear collecting aspect of the game, but my husband did. Nothing was soulbound in Diablo II, so you could pass even the best gear between characters. My husband and one of our friends were each trying to collect all the uniques, and had loads of gear stored across many characters on several different accounts. They would farm bosses (ask my husband how many times he killed Mephisto!) trying to get some of the drops. I did a bit of that, but what I remember more is farming chipped gems. I could put them into the Horadric cube with my sword to try and get the really awesome “cruel” stat set on it. I remember trying to collect all the runes as well.
When we weren’t playing the game, we were usually talking about it. There were lots of e-mail exchanges, like the one I mentioned before, and we had to be careful when we went to parties not to chat about it constantly. We’d make plans for new ways to play, talk about stuff that had happened in game, what had dropped, etc… sound familiar? 🙂 Our friend’s girlfriend (now wife) was one of the few in the group that didn’t play, and she said it was like we were speaking a different language.
If I recall correctly, I was the first to quit. I think I was a bit burnt out anyway, but the final straw was getting tradehacked by someone. It was horrible. I left the game just for a month at first, but I didn’t stay with it long after my return. It just wasn’t the same. I’d seen all the content, and given that the economy was polluted with duped items and eBayed stuff, I had no interest in collecting gear or runes anymore either. Other hobbies took over my free time, and I moved on.
I heard about WoW when it came out, but I didn’t rush out to get it since I hadn’t been a huge fan the other Warcraft games. I’d also heard WoW had similarities to Everquest, which I’d specifically avoided as it was often referred to as Evercrack. After finally taking the plunge into WoW last year, I reported to our old Diablo II friends about the game, told them how amazing and fun it was, and how Blizzard had built upon and refined much of what they’d offered in Diablo II (summed up very well in this post by Renata). My husband started playing a few months after I did, but our local gamer friends (some no longer local) decided not to get into WoW. The sticking point with them was (and is) that it is a subscription-based game. They say it’s too much money to pour into a game, though we’ve rationalized that part in the usual ways to them. (Even playing just once a week will make each play session cost less than the price of a movie ticket, one month of WoW is cheaper than an evening out for beers, etc, etc.) We acknowledge that the real cost of the game is time, and it is probably true that neither of them has as much free time as before, so we’ve pretty much given up on the idea of the band getting back together to play WoW. But, upon mentioning the prospect Diablo III to them in the past (and again in the last few days), they sounded like they might actually cave in for this one… it is, after all, Diablo.
So, in getting a hint that it could be Diablo III on the horizon, even if it’s only an announcement and it would be three years before I’m subscribed and looking at its login screen, I’m getting very excited and hopeful. I see people all over the place say, “but what would they do differently? would it just be WoW in the Diablo universe? wouldn’t another MMO compete with WoW?” Of course I would want it to be a great game, but I’m caring a bit less now about how exactly the game is different or what it accomplishes. Instead, I’m enjoying the intense nostalgia for a game I loved and the anticipation of playing with my old friends again. I’ll be doing my best to rope my younger sister into it this time, too.