It is the year 2000 and my brothers and I convinced my parents to buy us Diablo 2 for our family’s Mac desktop. One of us would play the game while the other two hovered over the computer chair waiting anxiously for their turn. I started off as a Barbarian, with two giant axes in my hand as I traveled across Tristram, killing every demon that I came across. Blood and guts poured out of these demons as they gasped horribly during their final breaths. I was nine years old.
It is 2021 and I got access to the beta for Diablo 2: Resurrected for my gaming PC. My brothers are interested in the game but did not get into the beta. At least for now, I will be playing alone. I chose the Druid this time and once again set off into Tristram to surround myself with the blood of dead demons and piles of loot. I am now 30 years old.
Walking back into this game over 20 years later was a wild experience for me. I saw my childhood, preserved in amber. I replayed a game that was foundational to the medium — and it still holds up. Despite how outstanding it felt playing Diablo 2 again, I couldn’t shake off the specter behind it. The unstoppable reality of our present. Indulging in my nostalgia doesn’t change the fact that my childhood is gone and what Blizzard was is no longer what Blizzard is now.
2000: I am running through the Den of Evil, looking for my last Fallen One to kill. My mother picks up the phone to call my aunt. Dial-up internet dictates that I now can no longer play. I get disconnected. I log back in and find my character back in the Rogue Encampment and I am staring at my corpse on the ground.
2021: Back inside the Den of Evil, I find a group of Fallen Ones and their shaman. This is the last mob in the Den, which means my quest is almost complete. The beta decides to crash and I am forced to restart my computer. I log back in and find my character and his corpse in the Rogue Encampment once again.
Diablo 2: Resurrected is starting its open beta access where players will pour into the game to test out the multiplayer mode. Many people, myself included, claim that this is the proper way of playing Diablo 2. While there is a single-player mode, the real joy comes from playing with a party of your friends or complete strangers to take down the forces of hell.
I was shocked by how preserved the online experience was in the beta. I would assume Blizzard would try and polish the lobby or integrate some sort of Looking For Group (LFG) finder, which has been the backbone of dungeons in World of Warcraft for years now. However, it is exactly how I remember it. Sure, maybe the engine is different under the hood, but the body is the same. There’s a plethora of games in the lobby that you can easily jump in and start questing. If you’re lucky, you might be able to skip a quest or two and jump right into a boss fight at the end of each act. It has been almost 17 years since I actually killed the Countess in Act 1 and I am happy to keep that streak going.
I am running through the Catacombs, essentially naked. I am doing a corpse run, but demons and those annoying bone wraiths surround my dead body. I get close enough to grab my corpse, regain my equipment, and open a portal to town so my next death won’t be as tiresome. I die once again and head through the portal I made in my death rattle. My Sorceress teammate went into the portal first, stole all my gold, and promptly left our game.
It doesn’t matter what year this happened in. This always happens.
There were many times during my playthrough in the beta that I felt like I was transported back to my childhood. The moans of the zombies, seeing familiar spells fly across the screen, and the utter frustration as I am struggling to kill one Brute all make me feel like I am back in my family’s computer room, surrounded by my brothers, playing the game for the first time. But those moments are fleeting — very fleeting if I am being honest. I snap back to reality to remind myself that I am playing a game that barely has any relationship with the current company that is developing it. Even the original developers, Blizzard North, are no longer part of the company.
I cannot divorce my nostalgic joy of playing this game again from the current lawsuits and upheaval against Blizzard. For those who are unaware, the state of California has issued a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard due to various complaints about sexual harassment, discrimination, and work conditions. This lawsuit alleges a myriad of senior staff committing sexual harassment against their employees. Many of these people and other high-ranking members at Activision Blizzard have stepped down.
I want to support the developers who worked on this game, who poured hours into this remake that recaptured the feelings I had back when I was still, frankly, a baby. How do I support the people — real people who love the industry and the games and who did nothing wrong — without supporting the system that allowed this alleged abuse to happen?
I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think there is a universal answer to that. Diablo 2: Resurrected feels like an echo to me now. A repeat of what I was feeling as a child, when game companies were only cool and could do no wrong. This echo rings hollow for me; that Blizzard is long gone. I don’t even know if that Blizzard ever really existed.
Strongbaaad has entered channel: Trade.
Doofus has entered channel: Trade.
Butthole has entered channel: Trade.
I don’t think Butthole ever left the channel.