What is the likelihood that updating DirectX drivers could have caused this? I know for certain I updated it during the time this problem most likely started.
I am going to try re-installing fresh nvidia driver set directly from nvidia's website, although I don't think this is going to fix it. Will doing this actually replace/overwrite existing driver files or simply skip copying them if the installer sees that the same apparent driver files (with same names) have already been installed? I think I ran into this once before with an unrelated problem.