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This is My Life Now

Big project going on at work has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Right before the project started, my son brought home some unexpectedly powerful daycare flu. It wasn’t COVID (we tested), but still knocked him out of daycare for nine days, and I’m still getting over it myself going on 14 days. I wasn’t out out for those whole two weeks, but masks + a runny nose does not mix well. Plus, it doesn’t look great to people when you step outside the room to take your mask off to blow your nose, even if you hand sanitize after. I don’t even blame them – I’d be leery too.

One amusing side-effect of this whole situation is what’s happening with my free time. I’ve been going to bed earlier due to wanting to beat the illness sooner, and also due to the project requiring a physical presence way early in the morning. So while I do still have 1-2 hours to game each night, I haven’t had the drive to do much other than veg out.

It started with watching some Twitch streams of Hearthstone. The new expansion is out, Blizzard fucked everything up by introducing multiple uninteractive OTK (one-turn kill) decks, but I still like to keep a pulse on things, so the streams were entertaining. Then I started watching Youtube videos of the Hearthstone streams, because A) I could see different decks more easily, and B) I can jack up the speed to 2x and thus watch twice as many. Finally, I started going to HSReplay where you can watch, well, simulated replays of Hearthstone games directly. There is a fast-scrolling feed on the main page which tells you the matchup, so you can isolate Paladin vs Warlock or whatever you want.

No joke, yesterday I watched random Hearthstone replays for two hours and then went to bed.

That has to be the nadir, right? I’m not playing the game, I’m not watching other people playing the game in an interactive setting, I’m not watching an edited video of the game playing… I’m literally just watching JPEGs of the game happening on the screen. And I found it entertaining and insightful! If I were just watching TV or something, at least there would be a plot or overarching story or something. I could say “I finished X series.” Still haven’t gotten around to watching the newest season of Handmaid’s Tale, for example. Then again, I’ve been watching that on CNN for the last four years already.

I feel like I should feel worse, but I kinda don’t. Between the two-year old and this work project clown show, I have learned to… let things go. Not in a “woosa” sort of way, but in that Fallout-esque “It’s been 200 years since nuclear Armageddon and I still can’t be bothered to sweep the inside of the house I’ve been living in for a decade.” Might be harder without a broom, I suppose. And we still have unopened, unsorted boxes from when we moved into this house three years ago so I probably I shouldn’t throw too many stones. Or I should start with the ones still laying on the floor.

The Pulitzer Prize for Videogame Narrative Goes to…

…Diablo 3, of course.

Super Meat Boy had just pulled ahead with the judges, until this narrative bomb dropped:

Technically, I guess this constitutes a spoiler…?

Do not let that last line wash over you; let it sink in. “Auriel, archangel of Hope, has been captured by Rakanoth, the Lord of Despair.” Hope had been captured by Despair! Is there a word to describe a metaphor so superficial and goddamn literal that it becomes a mockery unto itself?

All I can think of is “nadir.”

Neither the Diablo series¹ nor the hack-n-slash genre is exactly known for their compelling narratives, and that is fine. Campiness has its place, and that is fine too. But the shit Diablo 3 attempts to pull with a completely straight face is simply ridiculous, bordering on insulting. It feels like placeholder plot, especially in a severely truncated Act IV.

Take, for example, the exchange I posted above. Scroll of Fate? What does it add to this story that such a thing exists, or that the character is outside of it? I am not talking about the idea of a Scroll of Fate and an unbounded main character – that is perfectly fine as a story device, such as in Kingdoms of Amalur, etc – but the Diablo series has never been about that. Remove that bit of dialog (please), and nothing materially changes about the narrative. Maybe there is a tie-in between the prophesy at the beginning of the game and this Scroll of Fate, but that link is so tenuous that the writer is either being too subtle by half, or in wont of an editor with a backbone.

And then there is the Enchantress, whom is introduced as a character by being a wizard kept in stasis for 1,500 years to aid the hero in his/her prophesied time of need. While there was apparently a legitimate attempt to have this add something to the story, I could not help but think that maybe the Prophet should have let the Archangel of Fate look at his crib notes since the hero was apparently featured in them.

It could be that all of this is a setup to an expansion (or two) in which we explore all the random, seemingly banal things the companions said. But, again, that would necessitate a level of subtlety on the part of the writer(s) that is simply incongruent with the John Madden-ning the Prime Evils do throughout every step of Acts II-IV. “What’s that, Diablo? I will never close your portals to Hell? I will never close your other portal to Hell? I will never make it past your lieutenant? I will never make it to you in time? I will never actually read in-game text that is not magic item properties after this and all subsequent playthroughs?”

Damn, you’re good.

¹ I realize that this is actually an arguable point. As one forum poster described, the narrative was much more poetic and Biblical throughout (most of) D2 at a minimum. The Moldy Tome, for instance.