Diablo III, The Ultimate Pavlovian Mechanism

UM writes: I was a little hesitant to pick up Diablo III for my console – I’d played the first two games on a PC, and I had trouble seeing how some of the finer points of using skills would transfer over – but it turned out to be loads of fun. Great interface, good pace, really fun skill progression/modification/custo mization.

Of course I was aware of the slightly insane logic of games like this: fight monsters that drop items that make your character more powerful, so you can fight harder monsters that drop better items that make your character even more powerful, so you can… fight harder monsters. I’m sure there’s a word for it. Pretty much any inventory-based RPG has this mechanic working to some extent. And it’s certainly not a problem on its own – after all, with games like this, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

But the more I played Diablo III, the more I was slightly disturbed at how incredibly slick it all felt. From the visible experience bar (just a liiiiiitle further) and the way your character lights up when you make a Paragon level, to the aesthetically pleasing orange column of light and special, unique sound that plays when a legendary item drops, the more I played, the more I felt like the game was playing me.

There are a few routes we could go when talking about this – because, indeed, the whole game is one big Pavlovian mechanism, but let’s take one aspect and really pick it apart.

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