This year I will be celebrating my 30th birthday. When I look back at my life, I have had quite the interesting 30 years. There are plenty of things that have come and gone but there are very few that have remained constant, aside from my family. When I try to think about some of the longest tenured things in my life, I look at the usual items. Friends. Relationships. My home. Then I think of something that most would find unusual, video gaming. There are plenty of life long gamers out there so maybe it isn't that unusual. But what about playing one game consistently for 16 years? Now that is unusual. Growing up I had always been mostly a console gamer. With releases such as Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario RPG... it was a golden era for console gaming and that is where most of my time (aside from sports) was spent. That is, until I was introduced to Diablo II. I'll never forget my first time playing. I was hooked instantly. There was so much customization and the fact that enemies dropped random loot was a completely foreign concept to me. My first character was a Necromancer that I childishly named ( I was barely a teenager) MasterSlayer. The first few weeks I spent playing Diablo II was all spent in single player mode. I had no idea you could play online with other people. My cousin and I would sit with our laptops next to each other, not knowing the possibilities that laid before us. Still, at the time single player mode was all I needed. I spent hours searching every corner of every map, foolishly saving up gold to buy horribly overpriced and frankly crappy gear from merchants, only looking at what armor had the highest defense and what weapons had the highest attack. Not realizing at that young age how meaningless the attack stat was on a Necromancer. Still, flawed plan and all I finally managed to get through Act V and beat Baal. I was level 48. In normal difficulty. That is how much time I spent playing. Then, I realized the game started all over in a significantly harder mode that was dubbed Nightmare. However, I never made it any further. Shortly after beating Baal, I was introduced to a whole new world in Diablo, playing on battle.net with other players. I had no idea what noob meant. I knew nothing of the lingo people used. I'll never forget going into a game that was meant for trading, sitting in the Rogue Encampment with people asking me "wug". It took a while before I understood that meant "what you got". Even so, I was laughed at with what I presented as available items for trade. I didn't care. People took pity on me and gave me free stuff. I played through normal again, this time online and when I beat it, I decided to give Nightmare difficulty a go. With the pity items I received from random people, I was successful in eventually conquering that difficulty and Hell difficulty. I thought that I was done. What else did I need to do? I just beat the highest difficulty the game had to offer. Why were there still so many people playing online despite beating the game? Surely it wasn't just PvP matches? It wasn't. There was something so nonintoxicating addicting about continuing to find better gear, better items, even though I had no desire to do PvP at the time. I couldn't stop. Unfortunately in late 2004, I was faced with some grim news. I had to have major, major spinal surgery. I would have to be withdrawn from school and have a surgery that had a full recovery time of 6-9 months. Having just moved to a new state, I didn't mind missing school and having to start over next year. I didn't know anyone yet. The only thing I knew was I would be confined to my home for at least 6 months. What the hell was I going to do? I am guessing you already knew the answer. As depressing as it was to be 16, withdrawn from school and confined to my home, I didn't care. I immersed myself further in the world that was Diablo II. I was building new characters. I had a new found wealth of items, HR's (high runes), anni charm, you name it. Diablo II got me through one of the most difficult things that one can face in life, aside from maybe death. Being able to wake up every day and immerse myself in something that I just couldn't get enough of, well it was quite unbelievable. Even after my recovery was complete and when life was back to normal, I still played. On the weekends I would routinely be on the phone until 5 am with my cousin and other friends, all playing together. After arriving back at school, I of course began to make new friends and develop a life again outside my home. As I went to parties/football games/movies with friends, or even after I was finished playing hockey or golf, I knew what I was coming home to do. Get right back to where things were in Diablo II. Nearly 16 years after my first experience, I still boot up Diablo II. I'm now married, have a baby on the way and have an extremely demanding career. And you know what? I still play through the game every now and then. In 2014 when at home sick with the flu, my wife asked me if there was anything she could get me. Well, as a matter of fact... there was. My wife had never entered a GameStop in her life. I met her during my partying/fraternity years in college. She had no idea that she married the biggest closet nerd in history. When I told her what I wanted and where she had to go, I saw a look of confusion that I don't think I had ever previously seen before and to this day I still have yet to see again. But she went to GameStop. She got me Diablo II and just like old times, I fell right back into the game. The nostalgia was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I just purchased a new gaming PC recently and I am having a blast with it. I am booting up tons of old games on emulators and reliving some of the greatest parts of my childhood. Then it hit me, I bet Diablo II would be great on this thing. It doesn't take a genius to know what I am going to be doing this weekend and I am sure as soon as I start the game, I will be just as hooked as I was nearly 16 years ago. I always am.