Hello my friend! Stay awhile and listen… In September of 2019, Roger started a series looking at the “rights and wrongs” of Fanservice in anime. Today, we continue that tradition with Violence in Video Games. Today’s focus… Diablo.
What’s the Deal?
Diablo is a top down, hack-and-slash video game released in 1997 by Blizzard Entertainment. In 2000, the second game in the series was released with an expansion following a year later. It wasn’t until 2012 that the final game arrived but even then, more expansions followed. And amazingly, there’s talk of a 4th game in the future. Diablo is also considered a dungeon crawler because you basically work your way through dungeons using spells and weapons to hack your way out. However you remember the game, you know one thing: it was an instant classic. Once you created your character – warrior, rogue, sorcerer, necromancer, druid, assassin, and more – the quests lead you across the lands of Sanctuary to defeat the devil and some of his ilk. Having gone to a Catholic high school with a teacher who had a very pronounced way of saying “Baal”, he was one of my favorites to fight simply because it made me laugh! I had considered starting this series of articles with Diablo because back in 2012, when the third game was released, there was some controversy around the rating the third game was getting. Did Diablo really need an M rating? There was talk that Blizzard was releasing the game with the M rating because they did better in sales. But looking back, all of the Diablo games are listed as M rated games. On top of that, anyone who knew the name – meaning every gamer of the time – knew the quality of the games, so they didn’t need to rely on simple trickery to make their sales. They were going to make their money!
Why it’s not ok
Well, it’s the same old story: you spend the game killing. I don’t care if they are demons! What are demons aside from creatures that are not like us? Ok, sure, there’s the religious side of it, making demons actually evil whereas aliens, like Daleks, are not demonic, so maybe you can argue that these creatures need to die (like spiders) but the fact is you spend the game killing. No moral dilemmas, no chances to let the “bad guy” go, or even finding another way. And the methods of killing are varied: smash, slice, burn, freeze, electrocute… you find the spell, you can use it. The enemies die in splashes of blood and gore. Can’t deny it: the ESRB on the game says: “Animated blood and gore, Animated Violence.” It has that. On top of that, there are the video clips. It has got to be said that Blizzard has done some amazing cutscenes over the years. So much so that I still have my collectors box of Warcraft III which has a DVD of all the cinematics. On its own it’s watchable! Blizzard does great work but that works against it when you’re debating if a younger audience should try this game out. Can they handle what those videos offer?
Why it’s ok
The thing about a game like this is that it relies on a top down view of very cartoonish characters. Especially the earlier games, they are grainy and very dated looking! These are not highly detailed scenes of destruction and we’re a far cry from, say.. Far Cry, which leaves nothing to the imagination. The characters and monsters are not overly detailed and the effect is little more than a splash of red. And the truth is, you probably don’t pick up a game named for the devil if you don’t expect some monster killing. Then there’s the story which is engrossing; one of the first games that let me see just how good storytelling was in video games. And from the point over view of pop culture, is it fair to deny children of Deckard Cain, whose voice I always heard as a weird amalgam of Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart?
I realize it’s always going to come down to the child. Some kids can handle it, some can’t. The parent needs to make the call ultimately! But I don’t think this is going to inspire a raid on the local mausoleum to see if anyone can start hacking and slashing skeletons. And when I think of violence in video games, Diablo doesn’t even show up on my radar. That might be a sad commentary on all the other games I’ve played over the years but Diablo is more of an adventure. I recall no bad words in the game (although in fairness it’s been a long time since I’ve played it) and I think there are far worse games from the perspective of violence. The other thing that this game has going for it is that it’s fairly easy to learn. Point click, point click… No major button mashing so, while some boss battles are tough, you’re unlikely to want to give up and despondently wander the nearby cemetery. On the other hand, to some extent that works against the game because it means the game is pretty mindless. If the story and cinematics were not as good as they are, I’d be hard pressed to say a lot about the mind of the player.
So like so many others it’s a toss up. I think if it’s the violence that concerns the parent, this one should be on the “ok” list, because I truly don’t see the dark fantasy world with it’s top down view as being more than mildly violent, even if you are spending the day killing monsters. On the other hand, if you want a game for the kids that will spark the imagination and give them choices to think about, there are probably far better games, like Detroit Become Human which still has me talking! But that’s a very different style of game so the comparison mightn’t be entirely fair.
For my money, Diablo is a classic and should be played by gamers who want to see what started a genre. Games like Dungeon Siege and Torchlight owe their existence to this game. It has it’s place in the annals of gaming and is worth the time. Plus, you really want to get to know Deckard Cain! But you’ll have to make your own mind up. After all, no one ever listens…! ML