Go down the corridor. Fuck up the demons.

or, what doesn’t cure you at least passes the time

Hey, and welcome to part two in what is turning out to be an ongoing series (thanks, brain) on how to entertain yourself when your interior headmeats are refusing to be entertained. One of the worst things about depression is the sheer boredom - not just “all of this is awful and I wish I were dead”, but “all of this is awful and I wish I were dead and I can’t even concentrate long enough to forget the whole thing in front of the warm, soothing glow of Netflix”.

But fear not, for there is a form of entertainment that can penetrate your troubled mind and it is called Diablo III. Behold the reasons why it is basically the most perfect blanket with which to swaddle and shroud your misery.

Everything is fucked but you have quite a lot of agency

In Diablo III, if you pay attention to the story (more on that later), it becomes obvious quite early on that the world the game is set in is horribly fucked up, mostly because of demons (and the stuff people do that has to do with demons, like summoning them and making pacts with them and so on). Ominous prophecies, meteors falling from the sky, lots of stuff on fire, demons all over the shop. That kind of thing.

So basically roughly as fucked up as the world we actually live in right now, except with maybe 18-20% more actual demons. And a lot more barrels to smash. The major difference is that in the real world you’re a helpless pawn, more or less entirely at the mercy of giant faceless clusters of fuckery that could squish your entire world without a second thought, and in Diablo III you’re an insanely powerful [barbarian/crusader/witch doctor/demon hunter/monk/wizard] who can fuck up forty demons in two seconds flat and make it look like nothing.

Turns out that a sense of personal agency is quite good for the ol’ self esteem. Who knew.

You really don’t need to pay attention to the story

Especially on subsequent playthroughs (more on replay value later). When I’m as close as I get to being a normal functioning human, I like to play RPGs for the story with near-completionist zeal. Talking to all my followers after every mission, hanging onto every scrap of their wisdom. When I’m a puddling of loathing and despair, I do not give a shit about anything they have to say. JUST STOP TALKING. All of you. Stop it.

Diablo III has a decent enough story for a game that is at heart really quite silly. Blah blah demons blah blah save the world. Some good fantasy nonsense. Including actually interesting bits like the story of the Eirena, the Enchantress companion (more on her later! more on everything later!), who’s been in a magical coma for 1500 years because she had a premonition you might need her help.

But! And this is an important but! You can just totally ignore the plot if you want to. The point of the game is smashing stuff and getting absurdly OP in the process; if you just want those boring fucks to shut up about how sad they are that their world is doomed (I get it! we all get it!), skip the dialogue without remorse.

It’s easy to get going

Diablo III is kind to the casual gamer - the controls are mostly mouse-based,  and it’s very smooth and easy to master. The normal difficulty setting is not too challenging at all, and you get a lot of power fairly quickly. Or you can crank the difficulty significantly to find out if frustration even registers as an emotion any more.

It’s a game that requires constant but largely non-challenging attention, which is perfect if you are not doing too well on the cognitive front.

It’s easy to get around

There are times in a person’s life when they value a game with a nice fast obvious transport system, and Diablo III certainly has one of those - castable portals back to your base from wherever you are, waypoints you can jump between instantly on a map, etc. Enemies will respawn when you enter a map area again, but since the point of the game is murdering endless demons it is not really an issue.

If re-entering a route in Pokémon made you have to battle the same trainers all over again (and you weren’t desperately trying to grind your way to the Elite Four), that would be piss-tedious, but in Diablo III these respawns are indistinguishable from playing a new part of the game because smashing demons is the whole game. You can play for hours while barely noticing what’s going on and still claim you did something with your evening.

Also, the levels are broadly linear and it’s really easy to see what bits of the map you’ve uncovered and where you’re supposed to be going, which is great when you’re too sad to remember which way round East and West are (I’m kidding, I can never remember which way round East and West are). There is a time and a place for unstructured exploration and it is not here and it is not now.

Go down the corridor. Fuck up the demons.  

Replay value

Diablo III is a game you can play over and over again. That’s sort of the point. Once you finish the whole story for the first time, you get the option to start over...while keeping all the skills and XP you just accrued by playing it through once already. The combat is fluid and simple to begin with, and on top of that the game gives you the chance to get ridiculously beefy.

It’s absurd. I can melt through a wall of skeletons with my ridiculous heat ray, or fuck them up with my slashy slashy spectral swords. Or drop a huge frozen meteor on them. A lot of that sort of thing.

I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of replays, in that I’ve only played through one of the six classes and I’m only 75% of the way through a second playthrough with that character. If you like doing the same thing over and over again with only small differences each time (yes, hi) it’s an ideal setup. Seriously, it’s great.

The companions are broadly non-irritating

Nothing worse than a game insisting on making you play nice with the other children by pairing you with an absolute fuckwit who gets in your way and spouts nonsense 24/7. Luckily, the companions in Diablo III are a lot better than that. There are only three in total, and no one is too aggravating.

The Templar is a little on the dour side for me (think Sean Bean in Game of Thrones before they done bad things to his neck region), and the Scoundrel kinda hits on a lot of people a lot of the time, which means I tend to stick with the been-asleep-for-1500-years lady (because I empathise with that a lot and also she can turn your enemies into temporary chickens via ancient sorcery).

You get to make a cool banner

Depression is the enemy of creativity, but small achievements are meant to be good for you and making your own extremely awesome banner is definitely a small thing that you can achieve.

In terms of gameplay I am not even sure what the banner does (something about finding your friends?) but I am very glad that I have one and that it is so cool.

As well as getting beefy, you start looking comically epic

In terms of XP, gold, loot and all that, Diablo III is like a normal game on steroids. While epic creep can be a very real problem in games like World of Warcraft (where your gear and items actually matter, to some extent), this lavish approach is in keeping with the Diablo style and setting, and it adds to the fun rather than detracting.

The gameplay style and loot & item philosophy share a common tone: joyful absurdity and frivolous power.

You can play with other people (apparently???)

This is less advice and more just a disclaimer that I have no idea how the PvP or multiplayer works; I am not here to socialise.

That all sounds good, what should I do next?

Seriously just sit back and annihilate a lot of stuff.

I would like to read more about mental health and gaming

Okay go here. And here.