Playing games with a hangover is a risky business. If you play something too loud or too flashy, you risk re-enacting last night’s ill-advised doner kebab, but play something too slow and you’ll fall asleep in an instant. Even games like Tetris or Pac-Man are too much for my recovering brain on days like this, the waka-waka-waka sending signals through my synapses that for some reason tell my stomach to gush its contents.
Why am I writing about hangover games? No reason. It definitely has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a rough Sunday morning and I was at a friend’s wedding last night – I’m a pro who would never show up to work with a pounding head and ringing ears because he’d been up all night about Sweet Caroline repeated before. But if you’re ever in a less professional situation and want to turn on your PC after a night of drinking, there’s only one game to choose from. Disco Elysium.
However, this applies to almost every situation. Ask me to recommend a game if you’re tired, if you’re hungry, if you want to play something different, if you want to play something the same; Chances are I’ll say Disco Elysium. It’s just a certified banger and I’ll take every opportunity to encourage my friends, colleagues and strangers to play it. However, if you’re hungover, it takes Studio ZAUM’s narrative RPG to a whole new level.
Some people go out of their way to roleplay their characters. I’ve never played D&D, but I see players acquiring costumes, perfecting an accent, bringing props, and never breaking character for the duration of a mammoth session. We don’t typically do this for video games, but when you’re playing a role you like to put yourself in their mindset and make decisions that you think they would rather than the ones that you absolutely think are right. Disco Elysium offers a wealth of role-playing opportunities: you can play as a communist, fascist, idiot, kind-hearted fool whose heart is in the right place but just can’t find his weapon, or anything in between. You can even lean into the game’s absurdity and play the whole thing as a cryptic hunter, which I would heartily recommend. However, each playthrough has one similarity: you start out with a nasty bastard of a cat.
I randomized my stats for the authentic hangover experience. By that I mean I randomly clicked on the screen and groaned. However, this was a different time, not this morning on a weekday. Remember it. Then I found myself in the quaint town of Martinaise, more specifically in a fucked up hotel room in the seedy town. I’ve played this moment countless times, but even leaving the room is more of a struggle when your head is really pounding. You feel an affinity for old Harry, and the deadly grimace you pull in the mirror comes all too close when you remember catching a glimpse of yourself brushing your teeth earlier.
They feel even more at ease with the corpse hanging in the tree outside, and this particular playthrough quickly put Mr. Du Bois in a similar position. I left the hotel and found the bookstore, where I perused the merchandise and pretended to be a functioning member of society. I was abused by the children at the corpse and felt the hot shame of Kim’s pitying gaze on my back. I’m so sorry Kim. I know I’m screwed and I know it’s my own fault. Being hungover IRL just makes this shame different.
The sound of the river is an antidote to your hangover – a quick breather, but a breather nonetheless. The dice rolls have the opposite effect, the rapid shaking around your skull like it’s a craps table in Vegas every time Harry tries to make a decision. The Final Cut voice acting also makes it feel a bit like listening to an audio book, which I might try when I have my next hangover. I can’t strain my eyes to read this tiny text at the best of times, let alone when it feels like it’s about to fall out of my skull and roll across my keyboard. The soothing tones of abuse from coworkers, strangers, and children a second time somehow make you feel a little better. You don’t feel better, but there’s a tiny part of your brain, a little sliver of your limbic system, that hopes things will get better, tells you that you won’t feel awful forever, and reminds you that it could be worse, you could be just as fucked up here as old Harry.
But just as I was getting going, I was killed by a chair. you know him Evard’s uncomfortable chair fucker. It is a challenge. A test of strength. And I failed. Harry technically failed, but so did I. I can only imagine Kim’s disappointed look at our sluggish body, Harry and I both share the shame at such a ridiculous death.
I stopped at that point, I hadn’t thought enough about my stats or the tests I knew were coming. I looked away from my laptop screen and at the door in my bedroom. It was time for me to get up, to find out if there was any semblance of humanity left in the soulless shell I call my body. I put on my death grimace and made my way downstairs, taking things slowly so my aching head wouldn’t roll off my shoulders. A liberal application of Diet Coke helped slightly, and I figured out what came next. I took a deep breath and sat down in my desk chair. And I survived. Maybe I would be fine after all.
Next: There’s a Disco Elysium novel, but you probably can’t read it