This isn’t an admonishment, as the statement comes from an addict. I don’t even play World of Warcraft and I realized the other day that I’m deeply entrenched in 3 different Blizzard games. Currently, I’ve been playing a lot of Hearthstone, Diablo 3, and Warcraft 3. All from different eras, all with different styles of gameplay, but all highly addictive. It’s like Blizzard has tapped into gamer psychology. Hearthstone appeals to the gambler in me, Diablo hits me with waves of dopamine every time I get a new legendary item that is better than the item before it, and Warcraft 3 is my favorite competitive game to date.
It’s impossible to deny the impact they’ve had from a gameplay perspective based merely on the amount of copycat games (all the MMO WoW clones) and the genres that they have spawned. Not only did they help pioneer the RTS genre, but they also created the MOBA genre. With DotA, League of Legends and all of its clones, its player base, etc, etc. Blizzard has created casual PC gaming. It is built into the very fabric of gaming. The largest populations in gaming have been created or inspired directly by Blizzard games. Whether you like World of Warcraft or not, it has made the MMO genre what it is today. I still remember when WoW was dethroned by League of Legends. It's ironic that a game famous for ripping off the DotA mod from Starcraft and Warcraft 3 became more popular than the flagship game of the company that created the genre, but that's life. Blizzard is at the heart of gaming from its early days, and they represent inovation and success at the highest level of their field.
Why haven't more companies tapped into the goldmine that Blizzard seems to be? What makes them stand out in a market saturated by knockoffs and competitors?
Firstly, their design. Blizzard games are well designed. They always have a memorable UI/UX, and they are typically exeptionally easy to navigate. Intuitive menu layout and fun designs go a long way in my book, but they aren’t even the most important factor. Compared to games like Halo and Call of Duty, where the menu feels like an afterthought, Blizzard menus are exciting and get you hyped for whatever epic quest or battle you’re about to engage in. Even the Blizzard packaging appeals to the 13-year-old in me.
I recently found a Warcraft 3 Battle Chest at a Target of all places, having never actually owned a physical copy of the game I bought it, and I was immediately drawn in to the packaging of Warcraft 3. I’m not surprised it sold so well back in the day (and continues to sell) because the mere packaging made me want to play it again, even though I’ve beat the campaign many times.
Secondly, the creature design and game world aesthetic. I love the feel of Blizzard games. From Starcraft to Hearthstone, each game has a unique design philosophy when it comes to the creatures, weapons, and world that the game takes place in. Starcraft is unique among sci-fi games because of the alien design and world building, and Hearthstone is unique among TCGs because of its inviting tone, and the meta-level idea that you're playing a game inside of a game universe.
They aren’t afraid to indulge the child within. A good portion of the Warcraft universe is very fae and cartoony. It almost doesn’t work sometimes when put up against the dramatic portions, but somehow they pull it off. In a way, the Warcraft universe is a reminder that you can still have fun in fantasy. It doesn't all have to have the weight and heaviness of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. Fantasy video-games have forgotten what it’s like to have fun. Even for all the things that Skyrim gets right, they don’t grasp this one concept: You don’t have to take yourself so seriously. And that’s what Warcraft is. Warcraft is easy and accessible on the surface, with depth and complexity where it counts, and that’s what makes it so popular.
Diablo is definitely the most mature and dark of the Blizzard games, having an almost horror game atmosphere, full of gore and violence. The mature subject matters you encounter and endless demonic forces you battle are a constant reminder that this isn’t the world of Hearthstone. It’s a world of unforgiving death and destruction. Instead of opting for subtlety, Blizzard bumps it up to 11 and really wallows in the spectacle of what it does best: Fantasy. Not a single trick is missed when it comes to Diablo. From the look of the enemies, to the look of your character as you upgrade your gear. I realized that little boys and little girls aren’t so different, even in a hertonormative society/upbringing. I’m basically just picking out clothing for my barbarian warrior, and I’m (currently) a 22 year old male. And even with that in my mind, I love it. I can’t stop looking for the next piece of gear to boost my stats and change my look.
Thirdly and finally, the gameplay. Blizzard games excel when it comes to satisfying gameplay. They make you feel powerful and yet balance the difficulty in such a way that you never feel like you have it easy. Diablo 3 excels are difficulty levels and slowly ramping up the difficulty all the while giving you more and more tools to defeat your foes. However, in terms of pure gameplay, Starcraft and Warcraft 3 are their crowning achievements. When you think about the fact that Warcraft 3 shipped 4.5 million units, it's no wonder that they singlehandedly popularized and maintained some of the first early professional gaming scenes to ever exist. To this day, the first Starcraft game is insanely popular in South Korea, and remains one of the most popuar games to ever be released. This speaks to the creativity and power of Blizzard gameplay, when a game that has very little story and is outdated graphically can still be played and enjoyed almost 10 years later by a wide audience.
A friend of mine described leveling up in World of Warcraft as a drug, and that you need that next high. For some people, chasing that high can be a problem, and it’s important to keep in mind that video games (like anything) can be truly debilitating.
However, while I’m a functioning adult, I’ll indulge my vices, and currently, my vice of choice is Blizzard.
If you don’t support the legalization of weed, or at least the decriminalization, I believe that on a fundamental level you don’t appreciate the message of Jesus.
I’m going to build a castle of logic supporting this idea, and I want you to tell me if there are any cracks in the foundation or resulting conclusions.
Firstly, we live in a Democracy of some sort. Some people assert that it’s a “Banana Republic” while others would have you believe that the people hold the ultimate power over their lives. Neither assertion is truly correct in my opinion. My opinion is as follows: The citizens of the United States of America have a substantial influence over the leadership and policies that guide this nation. This means that our opinions and our prejudices shape our legal reality. From this perspective, we are at least partly responsible for the state of our country.
What is the state of our country? Insofar as prisons are concerned, as of 2011: 25.4% of all prisoners are nonviolent offenders incarcerated for drug-related charges. This is based on estimated state prison admissions, by most serious offense (Table 4). If you want, you can continue to argue about this number, why this number exists, and if the socio-economic conditions justify it or if the offenders deserve prison for breaking the law based on principle alone. To me, it does not matter anymore.
We are the body of Christ, and we respond to this by herding our malcontents into the largest prison system in the world. Even if you don’t support the complete legalization of recreational marijuana, I believe at a bare minimum that our goal as Americans should be the decriminalization and rehabilitation of our nonviolent drug offenders.
Prison is hell. It exists because sin has tainted this world. It exists because we want order instead of chaos, and I understand that. I understand that the world cannot be a magical utopia with a 0% incarceration rate. However, as a Christian I believe that there are many men and women in America’s prison system that are innocent (philosophically) of crimes against society.
The prevailing opinion is “You break the rules, you go to jail.” But what if the rules are wrong? That is why I advocate for a changing of the rules.
We’re talking about health and addiction, not crime. People with drug addictions should be helped, the same way you would help someone who was cutting themselves or any other kind of self-harm victim. You wouldn’t throw them into a prison cell with violent offenders and murderers.
I think that in the end, this will help our society and our collective conscience.
Based purely on my life experiences, I know the majority of white conservatives will advocate for the continued criminalization of weed for a plethora of reasons. Some of these reasons are valid from a conservative perspective, and I don’t discount their opinions as being completely ignorant, but I don’t respect their opinions as being ethical. We could debate about evidence and ramifications regarding the legalization of weed and other such mind-altering substances, but it doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I’ve read as much as I can, I’ve listened to every perspective with an open mind, and I’ve grown tired of the argument. I think this is proof that I’m getting older. A younger me would be more content to continue gathering evidence without putting his head down and charging forward. I’m done playing politically correct.
The majority of Politicians despise and hate poor people of any color.
I’ve grown weary of listening to someone at the top of the American food chain advocating for the continued imprisonment of nonviolent drug related offenders. Prison can be a life-ruining judgement no matter how long you’re behind bars, and we disproportionately police poor communities, take away their hiring potential, expect them to get a job out of prison, and then are surprised when the only way they can make money is by selling drugs. We’ll imprison the father for selling drugs, and then we’re surprised when his children are poor and without a provider, citing high rates of divorce and lack of commitment from black men when we put them behind bars where rape, murder, and other such atrocities are beyond prevalent. White America killed non-violent black leaders in the 60s, showing black communities that they only way to be heard is through violence. Furthermore, when a black football player peacefully takes a knee during the pledge of allegiance because police are killing his people, America criticizes him for his “Unpatriotic” expression of free speech. If you can’t recognize the irony, then rational conversation is just not for you.
“If only they would revolt for someone more respectable. Michael Brown was a thug.”
The person who says this is essentially admitting that the oppressed have a reason to revolt, they just don’t like the technicalities of why they’re revolting. I like to imagine that the British said similar things during the Revolutionary American War. “I’d be more likely to listen to the colonies if they weren’t represented by malcontents.” Or in regards to rioting: “Can you believe that they would destroy their own tea?”
People in revolt are almost always scoffed at by the upper class because the system in place has benefited those at the top. Almost without exception, the system as worked for those who have, and it has worked against those who have not. This doesn’t mean that the system is always unfair, rather that the system has flaws. America’s economic structuring is older and less modern than we like to think, and it benefits families and people in power. Our elites mask the structure with rhetoric and good feelings that begin to sound more and more like propaganda the older I get. The same phrases are repeated over and over again. “The police are here to protect you.” I can think of no greater lie in American history. The police are enforcers of the government. In the monopoly on violence, they are the pieces that the players move about to represent their will. This is more a discussion on laws and the way they are enforced, rather than the enforcers themselves. If the police do not protect, then they are merely thugs of the government, dishing out punishment as the elites see fit. This means that laws are not moral, they are arbitrary. If you cannot see this, and you truly believe that weed is a reason to imprison a fellow American citizen, I can truly say that you do not believe in freedom.
I had been growing bored with single-player video-games for a long time. A couple years ago I had landed on the League of Legends bandwagon, and then Hearthstone, and then Smash Bros. for the Wii U, etc, etc. Everything was multiplayer. There was no point in playing single-player titles. They didn’t give me that rush anymore. My opinion towards single player games had soured. I still liked older titles like Half-Life 2, Legend of the Zelda, Mass Effect (1 and 2) FTL, FEZ, Bioshock, etc, etc., but I hadn’t truly enjoyed a single player experience since Bioshock Infinite. Nothing since Infinite had come close in terms of capturing my imagination with its amazing design and complex story. I had been burned too many times by main-stream developers and I had also lost my appetite for the indie side-scrollers that were pushed as “games” by the indie community. Sure I enjoyed Don’t Starve, Bastion, and Limbo, but they were the exceptions.
Fast forward a couple of years. I’m playing Legend of Zelda (Twilight Princess HD), becoming slowly bored by the lack of variation in my gaming diet. Zelda is the only single player game I had been playing (besides a little bit of Pokemon and Super Mario) and the pure childish nostalgia (while enjoyable) was starting to overload me in terms of… sweetness. Like too much candy in one sitting, I was beginning to have an existential crisis. “Maybe I don’t like video-games anymore,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this is the end of childhood. Nothing has that magical touch anymore that gets me excited without it being a gambler’s rush or a competitive experience.” I refused to let these thoughts ruminate, and I immediately went to my local Gamestop and did what I had been meaning to do for a long time.
I had never owned a PS3. As a child I had played the Nintendo 64, GameCube, PS2, Xbox 360, and PC. I had never experienced the post-golden age of Sony’s gaming console, and I had resolved to try it out. I imagine the employees of Gamestop were surprised that I was looking for a PlayStation 3, being that the latest iteration of the PlayStation 4 had just been announced. With demand comes supply, and the higher the demand, the higher the price. The originally $600 console was now 1/6th of the price. I bought a PlayStation 3. It was just over $100 and the average game price varied from $2 to $11.
At the top of the used games pile was a copy of Dark Souls. I had heard rumors and rumblings as to its legendary reputation, and I threw it on my bargain stack of cheap games (including one of the early Ratchet and Clank titles for the PS3 and some other PS3 exclusives) and checked out around $160. “Not a bad haul” I thought to myself as I made my way to the car. “I’m experiencing an entire generation of a critically acclaimed console at less than 25% of the cost.”
When I got home I immediately began playing the first Dark Souls title. The initial reveal that my character was undead threw me for a loop, and like that I was on board. It didn’t take me long to delve into the lore (which is surprisingly deep yet paradoxically sparse and vague), and become completely immersed in the Dark Souls world. The gameplay is nothing less than amazing. While completely unforgiving, Dark Souls is fair. If you “git gud” and learn the enemy attack patterns, you will be rewarded with easy fights that are extremely satisfying. Hilariously, the fights are rewarding because I died probably 20 times against that particular enemy type before I understood how to beat them.
The feeling of oppressive dread that oozes out of every structure in the world of Dark Souls reminds me of the Adult Link Timeline in Ocarina of Time, mixed with a bit of H.P. Lovecraft, or Poe. I was surprised to learn that despite the western high-fantasy atmosphere, Dark Souls is a Japanese game. Once I realized this the parallels to Shadow of the Colossus (another single-player Japanese fantasy game) became solidified in my mind, and I fell in love even more. Similar to SotC, Dark Souls is a puzzle game. The combat is the puzzle, and figuring out how to defeat the seemingly insurmountable and unchallengeable gods, demi-gods, demons, and monsters of Dark Souls with just your sword and shield is a mental exercise, and your death is a failure to skillfully unlock the simple secret to an otherwise impossible boss fight.
My love for single-player gaming was rekindled like the bonfires spread across the land of Dark Souls, a game I had written off for years as being a simple Skyrim clone, now one of my favorite games of all time. At the time of this writing, I am resolved to finish the entire series and seek out other games with a similar level of quality and complexity.
My name is David. This is my blog. We're gonna talk about whatever I want, which is usually a discussion about culture and society and the chicken/egg paradox that such a conversation creates. I hope you enjoy what you read, and if you don't I encourage you to leave a nasty comment so that I at least know someone is reading this crappy waste of internet space.
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