Do you ever have those moments when you’re playing a game for the umpteenth million hour and suddenly wonder: am I having fun? Or let me rephrase: you are having fun but, when you really think about it, by all accounts you shouldn’t be?
I don’t have these moments often, as generally when I’ve hit umpteen million hours into something it’s because I’m enjoying it. But I had such a moment after picking up Diablo 3 again recently. I’d heard the new 2.3.0 patch had really streamlined the game’s character progression, and boy has it! My original 2012 playthrough got my Barbarian to level 38 after completing the campaign twice; I’ve almost hit that again with a new Barbarian in around an eighth of the time.
That’s amazing, thought I, now I can get to all that awesome loot SOONER. I love having awesome loot. And that’s when the “am I having fun,” thoughts began.
Because that’s what Diablo 3 is: the constant grind for that sweet, sweet loot. And what does that loot do for you? Aside from making you look bad-ass in your Legendary Pants, the loot allows you to kill things faster by making you stronger, having a better weapon, a weird buff from a pair of boots etc. And if you can kill things faster, then you can get more (hopefully superior) loot faster so as to kill things EVEN FASTER. The minions of hell must fall to my raging twirling of my sword, and they can always fall quicker!
You see where I’m going with this? I say the fun of Diablo 3 is obtaining the good gear, but I know there is always better gear to get so I am never satisfied. I’m getting the shakes anticipating getting the best weapon I’ve ever seen, but I never get to it. I never reach the “fun point”, it always jumps a littler further ahead.
So is the gameplay what makes it fun? I’m not so sure.
The above image shows me performing “whirlwind”, a Barbarian ability where your mild mannered warrior transforms into a rotating death machine. That’s one of my go-to attacks, because the Barbarian is really good at dealing intense, close range damage while simultaneously receiving it. I leap into the fray, charge up my whirlwind ability and then let loose. It’s like I’m the F5 tornado and they’re all Bill Paxton.
And that’s it. It requires a few clicks and holding down the right mouse button, and aside from a few buffs or maybe working in earthquake or two, that is how every battle goes down. So my quest for loot hardly alters how I play the game, rather it makes my strategy more effective. I suppose I’m a little boring, but it just works so well!
So maybe the fun comes from the people I play with? I don’t really play Diablo 3 on my own, I usually log on with a couple of friends and we just spend all our time catching up, trash talking and comparing all that loot. Am I just enjoying the company of those friends, not the actual game? Anything can be fun if you’re doing it with friends, even grinding through waves of enemies in the pursuit of improving statistical averages.
Grinding. We play Diablo 3 to constantly grind for more gear, better stats, and not for any purpose. We certainly don’t play it for the plot, we skip every conversation that comes up once we completed our first ever playthrough, and I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what the story was.
But the game IS fun. I do have fun playing it, friends or no (but especially with, please don’t ditch me guys). Despite my acknowledgement that I’m in a constant quest for loot I will never be happy with, using the same button combos to slice my way through the hordes of enemies, all in the pursuit of a story that is far from engaging, I really enjoy it.
So well done Blizzard, you’ve made grinding fun for me. I don’t know how you did it, probably through some kind of psychology that would disturb me to understand it, but you did it.
And now I’d best be off; there’s a sword I can craft at level 40 that is going to be the absolute best, I know it is…