I’m hosting Blizzcon next month, so a big part of my preparation — my job, which is still kind of hard to believe — is to play as much Blizzard games as I can. There’s no way I’m going to be as knowledgeable as the people who live and breathe these games, but I need to know my way around them, because it would be irresponsible not to.
For some games, this is really easy. I’ve been playing Diablo since day one, and I used to play StarCraft back in its first release, so playing those games is like visiting with an old friend, if that old friend hasn’t gotten all saggy and old and weak and unable to hold his liquor after midnight like, um, someone who is most certainly not me. That’s for damn sure. Not me. I’m doing great thanks.
If you follow me on Twitter, which I’ve explicitly told you not to do, you know that I’ve recently restarted Diablo III, and I’m going all the way through the story again. I’m playing a wizard (a class I’ve never played before. I sort of fell in love with the monk and never played any others) and I’ve been saying up way too late every night, while I try different spell combos and figure out what gear I like the best. Can I just mention how happy I am that I can transmogrify items now? Because I am the kind of player who would really fall in love with the way a hat looks, and never want to put on something better because it didn’t fit my style.
I can feel some of you rolling your eyes at how I’m a filthy “casual”, but you’ll get over it. The idea of loot runs and rushing bosses to level a character as fast as possible has never appealed to me, but playing through the story, experiencing areas and NPCs that I’d forgotten about or never came across before, and remembering the countless all-nighters I pulled in my twenties has been really fun and rewarding.
Anyway, I’ve put something like 50 hours into D3 in the recent past, and it would be very easy to hook myself up to some sort of iron lung-style device that keeps me alive, fed, and moderately hygienic for the next couple of weeks. It really is that much fun for me, and I’m only level 36 right now. I got a ring last night that spawns these little chubby troll things that blow up for no reason, and don’t seem to be useful in combat at all, but hold crap are they hilarious.
I’m doing my best to have a good work/life balance, though. I’m making time to walk my dogs every day, writing a little bit every day, eating right, and even seeing my wife once or even twice a day. Today, I even went outside while the sun was still up, so there’s that.
I’m also learning games that are new to me, like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. I love Heroes of the Storm, and I made it through the training missions pretty easily, but when I try to play with actual humans, I am hilariously bad at it. I mean, I’m better at rolling d20s than I am at not dying in Heroes of the Storm. Ted Cruz is better at not being an asshole than I am at being useful to my team in Heroes of the Storm. True Detective Season 2 was more satisfying than — okay, you get the point.
But here’s the thing: every time I’ve played, I’ve told my team that I’m learning, and I stink, and I’m sorry but I’ll do my best. And every time I’ve played, my team has been friendly and patient and encouraging. Even when I’m stinking it up like the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, the people I’ve played with haven’t been shitty to me. I asked my son, Ryan, who knows his way around these games much better than I do if that was normal, and he told me that, in his experience, people who play Blizzard games tend to be pretty decent to each other.
“They’ve built in all these controls to weed out the assholes,” he told me. “So the people who are playing are people who want to be playing, and it isn’t like League of Legends, where someone feeds the other team specifically to be a dick and ruin it for everyone.”
So if you’ve recently played Heroes of the Storm with a player who was so incompetent you thought that maybe a kitten had hopped onto a keyboard and was rolling around on it, and you were kind and patient with that person, there was a good chance it was me. And even if it wasn’t, give yourself a gold star for being awesome to someone who is struggling in a game. The only way we get more people to play games, and the only way we keep nice people in games, is when we help new players get comfortable.
Today, I’ve been playing a whole lot of Hearthstone, which is sort of like if you put Magic: The Gathering and Ascension into a blender, poured in five gallons of World of Warcraft, and put it on high speed for an hour. It’s silly as hell (in a good way) and easy to figure out, but difficult to master. My experience with deck builders and dueling games gives me an advantage to not sucking that isn’t present in Heroes of the Storm, and I’m probably going to be ready to attempt an actual, human opponent by the end of the weekend.
I have installed WoW, but I’m intimidated by and terrified of it. That’ll probably get played next week, sometime.