The Devil Made Me Do It, by Elayne Riggs
I haven’t had a lot of free time lately, but what little I’ve had on the weekends has been devoted to my Zen-relaxation hobbies of sleeping, watching baseball, reading blogs and playing computer games. I’m not big on the kill-em-all-let-fictional-dieties-sort-em-out ones, I much prefer the puzzle games like Atlantis Quest or Bejeweled or Chuzzle (I got my mom addicted to Chuzzle!) or Bookworm. But I do confess to a soft spot for a little phenom from Blizzard Entertainment known as Diablo.
Being cursed with a pretty bad memory for entertainment ephemera, I can’t remember if I ever played the first version of Diablo. I suppose I must have, way back, but it never really caught my interest except as a spectator sport. I loved to watch Robin play it, and he was was quite the fan, so when Diablo II came out I decided to learn its ins and outs and play alongside him. It wasn’t easy, neither of the two computers we had at the time had really fast processing speed, so when we played a round together either or both or our monitors would be pretty messed up, would freeze then go into fast-motion, all the stuff that tells you This Game Is Beyond Your Machine’s Puny Capabilities. Nonetheless, we persisted, more apart than together, and there was a stretch of some months when Diablo II took up most of our computer time, particularly with the debut of the expansion set, entitled “Lord of Destruction” (or as Robin and I, and apparently the creator of the above illustration, preferred to think of it, “Lord of the Dance”).
And I mean, it’s weird to like Diablo so much, not only as a woman who does tend to fall into the stereotypical story preference trends (i.e., preferring characterization to explosions, the evolution of relationships and personal growth to battles and gore, participation of interesting female characters in their own life stories rather than objectification and “love interest” secondary leads), but as someone who just isn’t into entertainment violence, period. I can look at sex far more easily than I can look at violence. Sexual parity is nowhere near accomplished, so most of the stuff in that realm still caters to the male gaze, as I’ve previously observed, but violence as entertainment (at least to me) really seems to cater to the male gaze. I just don’t find it fun. Even when it’s at the level of embarrassment comedy, I still feel for the victim. Maybe it’s because I’m something of a klutz, and the atmosphere around the Riggs Residence often resembles a slapstick sitcom. When I go to give my husband a mock smack on the head and wind up hurting my hand (and wrist, and elbow) instead, it may be amusing at the time in a karmic-justice kinda way, but I know my arm’s going to be killing me the next couple days and I’ll have all these “where did I get those?” bruises and, oh kiddies, it’s just not worth the pain.
So, violence. Well, I’ve talked before about how abhorrent it is to me as a form of entertainment, and how that’s been one of my big frustrations with reading superhero comics, the idea that “action” has become the easy shorthand for violence because many creators in a deadline-driven business don’t have the time or inclination or perhaps talent level to interpret “action” as “people doing visually interesting things that don’t necessarily involve fighting.” I just don’t see killing or maiming as fun. I don’t watch boxing matches, war films, sensationalist cable news specials, etc.
So why am I so enamored of Diablo? It’s got a lot of ultraviolence, you see red blood and everything (do any comics still feature black blood instead of red?), it’s pretty much all about killing as many demonic creatures as possible so you can cash in the next plot coupon (yes, that’s my question boldfaced in that link to Neil’s blog). So what gives? I dunno, and I don’t really relish the killing-demons part at all. But I do like the using-powers bit. There are at least three pretty decent female character archetypes — a sorceress, an Amazon and an assassin — and even though the outfits they can wear never seem to fully cover their butts (I mean, what the…?) they have pretty awesome skill sets, and it’s fun to build them up. I’m partial to the sorceress, ‘cause given the choice between swords and sorcery I’ll take the latter every time. Magic is cool! You don’t have to explain it!
But the real point of Diablo for me has been the shopping. Sounds so girly-girl, doesn’t it? The game makers refer to this as “treasure” rather than “cool stuff you find or make or purchase” ‘cause I guess the concept of shopping is too gender-specific or something. But it’s shopping. Robin and I even made an inventory list of all the cool stuff our various Diablo characters have found or created, so we can start off new characters with a complete set of weapons and armor and such. We consult the official bible for a lot of this stuff. It’s pretty fascinating; everything seems to lend itself to a story idea, especially the transformational area. Maybe that’s what I like best about the game; it’s so open-ended that, even though you have delineated quests and scripted characters, you can still imagine your character (or secondary ones) hanging out in a local pub or shooting the breeze in the marketplace. It feels like something you can expand on in your head, like a solid fantasy world wherein you can insert your little mental fanfics, and I find that extremely compelling.
I don’t have Diablo II installed on my new PC yet (I think I threw out the case with our original registration code), but I may be content to wait awhile, as Blizzard has just officially announced they are indeed working on Diablo 3. It looks amazingly impressive; far better graphics than I’m used to, new female character types (apparently you can now choose to make most if not all their character archetypes either male or female) and of course a brand new storyline. I hope my old stuff from Diablo II is transferable, but I sense it won’t be. Oh well, another great excuse to go shopping, right alongside my husband, without spending a single penny. After we buy the game, of course…
Elayne Riggs blogs at Pen-Elayne on the Web when she gets the chance, is about gamed-out for the moment and would like to sleep for a few extra hours a day, thank you very much…