Why I love getting drunk in games



Fallout beer

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Jody gets hammered on alien ale and sings hobbit songs.

“Drinking beer makes you tougher” according to the screen prompt when you down a can in Duke Nukem Forever. This is one of many pieces of life advice from video games you’re better off ignoring. As well as reducing damage by 75%, drinking beer gives the Duke blurred vision and lingering afterimages, slows down sound so that everyone seems deep underwater, and makes him quote dated bro comedy Old School. All that, and a serious case of the burps, after only a single American beer. Duke Nukem is apparently a total lightweight.

Underwhelming as it sometimes is, I’ll try getting drunk in any game that lets me. I feel it’s my patriotic duty as an Australian. My Commander Shepherd samples the krogan liquor, my Edward Kenway wakes up in a haycart after three or seven ales, and my Adam Jensen didn’t ask for this woozy tilting of the Earth or all the double images, please make it stop. And if there’s some kind of bonus involved, like getting health back in Redneck Rampage, all the better.

Games sometimes have odder ideas about the benefits of drinking than simple bonuses to your toughness or health. Drink the right booze in Jade Empire and you can learn martial arts. BioWare’s wuxia RPG gives you a companion named Henpecked Hou who is as much a drinking buddy as a member of your fantasy fellowship. When Hou is your companion he casually lobs bottles of wine at you in combat; drinking them allows you to switch to the drunken master style of kung fu just like Jackie Chan. Your stumblebum drunken fist attacks cause a lot of damage, especially the one where you topple over like a tipsy oak, though you have to keep drinking to keep the punch party going.

Sometimes drinking in games has worse consequences than rowdiness or beer goggles though, and I don’t mean getting murdered in an alley because you bought Leisure Suit Larry too many drinks in Lefty’s Bar. The newer Fallout games model addiction, borrowing the same mechanic they use for harder drugs, so that you can easily get addicted to whichever drink you’ve been enjoying too much of, whether for roleplaying reasons or just the temporary stat boosts they provide.

This is why my roguish wasteland gambler in Fallout: New Vegas became not an alcoholic but specifically a whiskey addict. Take the hard-drinking Cass as your companion in New Vegas and you can enjoy the Whiskey Rose perk, which washes away many of the negative side-effects of alcohol and gives bonuses to your damage threshold. Just like in Jade Empire and real life, it’s best to drink with a friend. Whiskey Rose only works if you stick to whiskey and wasteland tequila, and you can craft the latter yourself from agave and water. It’s practically a health tonic.

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There are other consequences to drinking too much beyond addiction, and the one most of us will have to deal with in real life is regrettable decision-making. The Witcher games in particular subject their ‘hero’ Geralt to plenty of that. In The Witcher 2 a sidequest hidden in the starter town has him deal with the consequences of over-celebrating with a fantasy special forces squad called The Blue Stripes. It begins with some knife-throwing, arm-wrestling, and shit-talking, and soon he’s waking up half-dressed on a riverbank with no memory of how he got there and a brand new tattoo on his neck. Geralt’s quest briefly stops being something about some kings or whatever and becomes a much more immediate search for answers about what he got up to the night before. This being a Witcher game it predictably involves a brothel.

Geralt then turns to Triss, his sorceress girlfriend, for advice on what to do about his new ink. You can either track down the herbs she needs to perform the medieval fantasy equivalent of laser removal surgery, or put up with having a naked woman with a sword and shield prominently displayed on your neck for all to see. It’s exactly the kind of tattoo Geralt would like, to be honest.

Classic Geralt.

Classic Geralt.

But as far as bad choices and lost memories the morning after go, the Dragonborn from Skyrim takes the cake, and then vomits that cake right back up into a bedside bucket. Spend enough time in Skyrim’s taverns and you’ll have a random encounter with a barfly named Sam Guevenne, who challenges you to a drinking competition. Accept and you wake the next day on the floor of a temple devoted to the goddess of beauty. Not helping with your amnesia or hangover, a priestess harangues you about the mess you and your now-missing drinking buddy made, which you have to clean up before you can begin to get answers about the previous night.

This sets you off on a quest that involves retracing your steps across the country and cleaning up bigger messes, like getting a goat back from the giant you sold it to and retrieving a wedding ring from a hagraven you are apparently now engaged to. This being a Bethesda RPG you could just pass some persuasion checks to skip all the fun stuff like stealing back a goat, and instead people will simply tell you outright what they saw you get up to at one a.m. while giggling, swigging Argonian Ale, and making very loud shushing noises.

At the end of your quest you learn the whole thing was an elaborate prank and that your pal Sam Guevere was actually a demigod of debauchery named Sanguine, but on the plus side you get invited to visit his realm afterward and then given a magic staff. This is a much better ending than the quest for a greasy hangover breakfast and a fizzy drink has ever had for me.

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Stories like those are why I like to have a tipple in games when I can. Just like in life, half the point of getting blotto is having something to tell people about on Monday morning. The only game that really portrays the fun of drinking in the moment though, rather than focusing on the morning after, is The Lord Of The Rings Online. Plenty of MMOs give you the screenshakes after a drink, but swig from the Spring Festival brandy kegs in Middle-Earth and the world changes color as you slide from side to side and, if you’re playing a Hobbit (and why wouldn’t you be?) your character bursts into song. Maybe the songs aren’t as bawdy as Geralt’s, but there’s a pleasantness to staggering through the darkened lanes of the Shire with a song on your lips that no other game captures.

Then you wake up on top of a random mountain suffering from a status effect called “Huh? Where’s My Pants?” But still, it’s worth it.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.