Gaming Addiction and your Friend Diablo

Let’s face certain facts. If a game is at all good, it is going to be addicting in some way. It is simply the matter that games are made for enjoyment and enjoyment is addicting. Of course some games go much further than others. Many developers don’t simply try to make the best game they can, but also the most addicting game they can. Many studios are based entirely around the idea of gaming addiction. Look at Zynga. Its entire library (And by library, I mean crapfest) centres around the concept that people will keep coming back if you can hook them in just the right way. There is a reason, aside from content, that most facebook-style browser games don’t allow you to play indefinitely, and it’s because developers know that if they get their game into your daily routine, you are more likely to play it indefinitely, long after you lost interest in it. Diablo is a series made by people who understand addiction very well. It isn’t the same kind of exploitative addiction you see from facebook games, but it exists nonetheless. Today we are going to be looking at the Diablo series and why it is so addictive that millions will be playing Diablo 3 for the next 12 years.

Please not another 12 years, Blizzard.

Diablo 1 is the least addicting of all of the Diablo games mostly because it has the least content and the series hadn’t developed yet. However, Diablo 1 was still on the cutting edge of addictive dungeon crawlers. Firstly, Blizzard understood more than just about any developer past or present how to make a good loot system. Enemies were fun to kill not just for the experience and gold, but the precious random magic items they may drop. The randomness was Diablo’s greatest strength and most addicting quality. No two games would ever play the same. The dungeon was randomly generated, as were the shop lists, item drops, even the quest available. Its worth playing through multiple times to encounter the Butcher, and King Leoric, both of whom a player can miss due to the random nature of the quest generator. A Sorcerer could be rolling in chain lightning and fireball books or have to live with fire bolt for far longer than they would be normally comfortable, based on random drops and random shop inventories. However, Blizzard hadn’t even touched the surface of gaming addiction for the series.

This room ruined many gamer’s day, and it was a shame if you missed it.

Diablo 2 brought a new pinnacle for gaming addiction. Instead of three classes, Diablo 2 brought five, later expanded to seven classes, which were all fully unique. The loot that Diablo was famous for exploded in the sequel with the addition of gems, and later runes to socket into items, more uniques, item sets that would give you a bonus as you collected all of the pieces, and unique character-specific weapons and armour. The loot mechanic alone was worth its weight in gold, but Diablo 2 went the extra mile to make it count. Bosses dropped much better items and enemies regenerated when you closed the game, making boss runs and dungeon runs possible. A whole day could be lost running the same dungeon over and over again, which simply wasn’t possible in Diablo 1.

I’m sorry Mr. Lord of Hatred, but it’s hard to fear you when I’ve killed you 30 times today.

Then there are the skill trees of Diablo 2. With three trees per character making a staggering twenty one in total, Diablo 2 gave a ton of depth to character development. What makes this addicting is the “just one more” mentality that games like Civilization have mastered. With new skills unlocking every six levels up to level 30 and new skill points being accrued every level, Diablo 2 made it very fun to level up. Long after its release, Blizzard patched the game, totally reworking the skill tree and adding synergies that made many more builds viable, which really switched up the game. Combine the loot and leveling mechanic with enemies that are legitimately fun to kill and you have a combat system that is addictive on three levels, making Diablo 2 exceptionally hard to put down.

It’s like Christmas, but in flowchart form.

Of course I haven’t even talked about the online community. Diablo 2’s most endearing quality to its fans was the expansion of the online features to make Diablo 2 a very functional online game. This level of addiction works on the same level as many first-person shooters. Grouping together with friends to go on demon killing sprees is inherently addictive, and is made more so with the addition of harder monsters and better drops. A strong online community can make a two hour game into a two year game. People love competition and playing co-operatively, and Diablo 2 offered that in spades. It encouraged millions of people to grind for items and experience to measure up to the steep PvP challenge of the online community, and many never made it.

Diablo 2 also had cows, so milk addicts would be totally into that.

Now we have Diablo 3. Diablo 3 seems to be made with addiction in mind far more so than its predecessors. Gone are the pretentious stat crunching and skill hoarding. Now you will gain a skill or rune with each level you gain and automatically gain stats. This dumbing down actually makes the game far more addictive. Now there is a much stronger “just one more” pull to the game as you will always get something new and exciting for leveling up. Loot is more varied and you aren’t bogged down by outdated identify or town portal mechanics. To say every class plays differently is an understatement. Each class is a game unto itself. The Witch Doctor plays nothing like the Barbarian, who plays nothing like the Wizard and so on. Monsters too are enhanced, being far more fun to kill than Diablo 2, and with far fewer irritating enemy types. Overall, it looks like there will be a lot of Diablo 3 widows/widowers.

The ultimate purist. The only class to still be using mana.

The idea with making an addicting video game is to not only keep your customer coming back for more, but making them crave it. The Diablo series is extremely good at accomplishing this feat for better or for worse. Addictive games can be an extremely negative thing for people who will cut aspects of their lives out for the game, and, in this way, Diablo 3 is a real threat. However, like I said before, the Diablo series isn’t made with the same malevolent greed that games created by companies like Zynga are, so there shouldn’t really be a problem. Constant positive reinforcement in the form of skills, and items make any Diablo very hard to put down, and it seems that Blizzard is only getting better at their job as they age.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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