Monday, 6 August 2012

Gaming Under The Influence

This article was originally written for Forces Of Geek on Thursday 26th July 2012. Credit to Georgie Oatley for the suggestion, go follow her on Twitter! Since writing this piece, I've been looking into video game cocktails and subsequently planning my birthday in November! 

Despite what the title of this article might suggest, I'm not much of a drinker. I have the occasional glass of wine or a few whiskeys now and then but mostly, I like to remain sober. Though, when it comes to games there are a few titles that are best served cold... with ice... and alcohol (Before you start questioning my sobriety... and sanity, I'm going to swiftly move on).

Check out Drunken Moogle for gaming cocktail recipes!
Much of this article is based on my gaming habits at University back in 2004-09. Most evenings began with my hall mates and me sharing a few pints, perhaps indulging in a film or a few episodes of whichever anime I was absorbing at the time - and more often than not, our evenings usually culminated in a fun, incredibly tipsy gaming session.

Naturally, any title that incorporates bright flashing images, ridiculous game mechanics or hilarious qualities is an ideal drunken activity to partake in with your friends, which is why my first mention is any WarioWare game. 

You can sum up this franchise with one word; bizarre. Playing these games sober is a challenge in itself, let alone attempting to play after a few beers. Each three to five second mini-game starts and you have to first work out what the controls are and then work out what the objective is.

It's the gaming equivalent of someone shouting "Think Fast!" then throwing you a ball - sometimes out of sheer blind luck you catch it and other times you're lying flat on your face with the imprint of a ball on your newly concussed head.

Come 'ere Grandma
Good reflexes and precise timing are both key when you're wasted and the real challenge is how well you can co-ordinate these two things whilst allowing for the influence of booze. It's no wonder that in a group, drunken gaming becomes hilariously entertaining and tends to draw a crowd of people who want to join in or simply watch the carnage unfold. I've just been told by my boyfriend that Konami's Bishi Bashi was far superior... but what does he know?

Speaking of a bunch of uncoordinated players frantically mashing a controller... Super Smash Bros. Melee certainly lives up to it's name.

You literally smash the buttons on the controller in an attempt to ascertain which character you're playing as, what's going on on the screen, how you just performed that awesome move and why Kirby just ingested Link and several Pokémon have appeared.

It's utter chaos - albeit pretty, colourful chaos full of fan-favourite Nintendo characters, but chaos nonetheless. Everything that happens on screen is a blurry haze so you might think that adding alcohol to the mix is perhaps not the best idea... oh, how wrong you are.

This game will screw with your eyes... and your brain
Of course, Nintendo are famous for their accessibility to everyone and those with a penchant for the booze is just one more group they appeal to. Some of the best Nintendo titles I've enjoyed alongside a few tipples are Time Splitters 2, Goldeneye 007, Worms, Mario Party and hell, even Mario Golf is fun after a few drinks!

Driving under the influence is both illegal and incredibly dumb but in the Mario Kart series, conventional rules do not apply. Even trailing way behind in last place is still enjoyable. The only thing that becomes difficult is navigating Rainbow Road without leaving the track. My friends and I used to crown who fell off the track least as the real winner, regardless of their position in the race.

A game I've played into the early hours of the morning with previous housemates is Left 4 Dead. Even better if you live with someone who has a projector and an empty white wall. Killing zombies becomes a comforting, methodical action and strangely addictive when you've come home from a night at the pub.   

My favourite kind of party
The last time I picked up my controller under the influence was back in February at a Halo: Reach LAN party for my friend Adam's birthday. Incidentally, I was part of the team who won - despite several ciders consumed!

When people are GUI (Gaming Under the Influence), their inhibitions are down so naturally their confidence sky rockets - you let go any hang-ups you might have, take risks like running out in the open, scoring twice the amount of kills than you would have biding your time using active camouflage and subterfuge. You're also subconsciously aware that you have to concentrate a little more and this can make some people a far better gamer.

Or so you think at the time.

In reality, despite the fact you're probably racking up more kills than usual, you're also more likely to run into the line of fire, cause several friendly fire incidents or accidentally betray a team member with a sticky grenade. That, and you've also been muted by any player you've encountered due to your incessant intoxicated ramblings.

If you're the type who personifies the "I don't shut the hell up when I've been drinking" handle then there is one game I haven't mentioned yet which is probably ideal for you. The Rockband franchise is wonderfully social and you are actively encouraged to make noise, true, this might mean out of tune singing and the plastic sound of clicking but when combining this with alcohol... it sounds AMAZING, except to the one sober person in the room (I'm so sorry). 

No party is complete without it
When sober, I find that people are less willing to play vocals but after a few beers or glasses of wine, everyone is fighting for the mic; meaning that you can play with a full band thus ultimately realising the game's full potential. Or... it just turns into a terrible karaoke party... which it always does.

Awful singing aside, playing Rockband after drinking is one hell of a challenge. It's the ultimate test of timing, co-ordination and in some cases pitch. Any player who claims to have five starred every song on expert mode can only truly be hailed as an expert if they can demonstrate their ability to maintain the same level of pitch-perfect practised skill whilst drunk.

Ordinarily, I don't recommend singer player gaming in a room full of people - it's rude, selfish and boring for everyone else - but there are some exceptions which are just as fun to watch as they are to play. Possibly the best communal single player games to play are open sandbox games like GTA. Hours of fun seeing who can last longest without getting caught by the police or pull off the most impressive stunt. Just remember to pass the controller around the room and keep the wine flowing.

Of course, some people like to drink alone which is unwise if you're the type to wallow in a self contemplative abyss. However, it can sometimes be incredibly gratifying if you spend your time gaming with a bottle of wine (in fact, it makes you feel rather cultured). Often, after a night out I'd come home, grab a snack and sit down at my computer to lord it over my Simlish minions. Without a doubt, The Sims franchise is an absolute joy to play whilst inebriated and the Super-Ego afforded to me from several tequilas made me a vengeful God indeed. Clown portraits in every home! No bathrooms! They will operate fireplaces and ovens without proper training! If they're stupid enough to burn their house down or unable to climb out of a pool without steps then they're unworthy of my love or support. I mean, who just stands there and screams at a fire!?

On the subject of stupid people, one thing to consider if you choose to drink when playing a Kinect or Wii title - Don't fall into your TV or have an accident like these idiots:



Remember, with copious amounts of alcohol, comes great responsibility. Be advised that everything should be enjoyed in moderation, even gaming. Max Payne will speak to that.

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