When I was first approached to write for Stuffer Shack, I felt compelled to make one thing very clear: I am not much of a gamer. Sure, I grew up with an NES console and logged countless hours on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, but I haven’t really played a game seriously since 2003. I enjoyed the first Halo, dabbled in Morrowind, and nearly completed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but haven’t logged much time in anything other than a casual game since starting my undergrad that year. Since then, other interests have taken over, ranging from Theatre production to long distance running to vintage guitars. But I’ve always felt a little bit like I abandoned gaming too early.
So when my friend Stef was planning on having a Diablo II LAN party for her birthday, I knew I had to see what I’d been missing the last decade. I’m somewhat familiar with Blizzard’s past games; I played a considerable amount of Warcraft II in my early teens, and some of my friends in College played a lot of World of Warcraft. Despite not having ever played Diablo II, I asked to attend as a curious, somewhat impartial observer. Stef was enthusiastic about the idea, and I came to the party with much to learn.
The first thing I noticed was how much RPG knowledge I retained from playing those games, even after a decade of not playing them. Mana? Inventory items? Experience points and leveling up? I felt oddly at home watching my friend Craig level up his sorceress HelenHunt (the only sorceress he knows). The six players mostly elected to bring in existing characters they had worked on for a while. Two newer players began the game from scratch, and leaders quickly and amicably emerged. Soon after, questing began and the party got rolling.
The fun, of course, begins with character names. Over the course of the evening, our server was graced with HughJackman, HelenHunt, Mal (named for everyone’s second favourite intergalactic smuggler, of course), and, uh, Alex. His lack of creativity can be forgiven, as one has to save something for the trash talk, which I noticed has changed for the better in the last decade.
In the dorm room, trash talk was pretty predictable. Within the first few minutes of Super Smash Bros. or NHL 2004, someone was going to be called a fag, a retard, or a bastard. Combinations thereof were also common. Political correctness and creativity were on roughly the same level. Trash talk on this night was different. While it was not quite at the level of George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill’s caustic banter, it was mostly clean and refreshingly clever. I might not invite my Nana to the next LAN party, but I doubt she would have been offended to listen in. I, for one, found myself pretty amused for most of the night.
It didn’t take too long for me to start feeling left out. In retrospect, it wouldn’t have been too difficult for me to obtain a copy of Diablo II in time. Even my lowly MacBook Air has the computing power necessary to run it. I wouldn’t have been the only beginner present, after all. But I did promise to return as a participant rather than an observer next time. Will this be enough to get me back on the videogame bandwagon? Perhaps. Carving out a few hours per week to level up can’t be that hard, and if last Friday night was any indication, it’s just like riding a bike.