@uniquelyterrific: You are not alone. I have a lot of love for all the Lucasarts adventure games, except Sam @ Max. I don't consider it a bad game. But it doesn't work for me. Not now, not back when it was fresh. Always found the atmosphere to be really creepy.
I talked to a young dude who was in to this. Mainly because he couldn't afford to play WoW. He would grind for hours and hours to get a new cape (or something). Fascinating. The fact that it is played through the browser surely helps those big numbers. Kids playing from school and what not.
I played D2 in hc-mode. I lost a few chars, but starting new ones was always the most enjoyable part for me anyway. Hopefully, in D3, you won't have to fear losing your chars due to naughty hacks.
I wasn't great at D2. The way hc-players kept their chars alive for so long was to know when they were about to eat it, and then exit out of the game fast as lightning. It seems there is a 10-second delay when exiting in D3. This makes sense of course. Hc is a lot more hc that way. (But believe me, it was nerve wrecking enough in D2).