Playing games with a hangover is risky business. Play something too loud or flashy and you might conjure up last night’s ill-advised kebab, but play something too slow and you’ll fall asleep right away. Even games like Tetris or Pac-Man are too much for my recovering brain these days, waka-waka-waka sending signals through my synapses which for some reason tell my stomach to pop its contents .
Why am I writing about the hangover game? Without reason. It certainly 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 professional who would never show up to work with a pounding head and ears ringing from the constant choruses of Sweet Caroline the night before. But if you’re ever in a less professional situation and want to fire up your PC after a busy night, there’s only one game to choose from. Disco Elysee.
This is true in almost all situations. Ask me to recommend a game when you’re tired, when you’re hungry, if you want to play something different, if you want to play something similar; chances are I’ll say Disco Elysium. It’s just a certified banger, and I will take every opportunity to advise my friends, colleagues and strangers to play it. When you’re hungover, however, it takes Studio ZAUM’s narrative RPG to a whole new level.
Some people go out of their way to play their characters. I’ve never played D&D, but I see players dress up, perfect an accent, bring props, and never break character for the duration of a gigantic session. Typically we do it less for video games, but when you play a character you like to get into their mindset and make decisions that you think they would make, rather than the ones that you necessarily think are the good. Disco Elysium has a plethora of options for roleplaying: you can play as a communist, a fascist, an idiot, a kind-hearted jerk whose heart is in the right place but just can’t find his gun, or whatever. whether in between. You can even lean into the absurdity of the game and play the whole thing as a cryptid hunter, which I would highly recommend. However, each playthrough has one similarity: you start with a bad, hungover bastard.
For the authentic hangover experience, I randomized my stats. By that I mean, I clicked the screen randomly, moaning. It was another time though, not this morning on a working day. Remember that. Then I found myself in the pictorial city of Martinaise, or more precisely, a ruined hotel room in the dilapidated city. I’ve played this moment countless times before, but even leaving the room is harder when your head is really pounding. You feel an affinity with old Harry, and the deadly grimace you make in the mirror hits too close to home as you remember catching sight of yourself earlier when brushing your teeth.
You no doubt feel even more affinity for the corpse hanging in the tree outside, and this particular game quickly left Mr. Du Bois in a similar position. I left the hotel and found the bookstore, where I browsed the wares and pretended to be an active member of society. I was abused by the children over the corpse and felt the burning shame of Kim’s pitiful gaze on my back. I’m so sorry Kim. I know I’m screwed and I know it’s my fault. Having a hangover IRL just makes this shame different.
The sounds of the river are an antidote to your hangover – a brief respite, but a respite nonetheless. Dice rolls have the opposite effect, with the quick jolt shaking your skull like it’s a Vegas craps table every time Harry tries to make a decision. Final Cut’s dubbing also feels like listening to an audiobook, which I might try during my next hangover. I can’t force my eyes to read this little text at the best of times, let alone when it feels like it’s going to fall out of my skull and roll off my keyboard. Soothing tones of abuse from co-workers, strangers and children a second time make you feel a little better. You don’t feel better, but there’s a tiny part of your brain, a little part of your limbic system that’s hoping things can get better, telling you that you won’t feel this bad forever and reminding you it could be worse, you could be as screwed up as old Harry here.
Just as I was getting into the nitty-gritty, I was killed by a chair. You know this one. Evard’s uncomfortable chair fucker. It’s a challenge. A showdown. And I failed. Harry failed, technically, but so did I. I can only imagine Kim’s disappointed look at our inert body, me and Harry sharing the shame of such a ridiculous death in equal measure.
I rage to quit at that point, I hadn’t given enough thought to my stats or the tests I knew were coming. I looked away from my laptop screen and turned towards my bedroom door. It was time for me to get up now, to start trying to figure out if there was any semblance of humanity left in the soulless husk I call my body. I applied my death grimace and descended the stairs, taking everything slowly so my aching head wouldn’t fall off my shoulders. A generous application of Diet Coke helped slightly, and I understood what was next. I took a deep breath and sat down in my desk chair. And I survived. Maybe I was fine after all.
Next: There’s A Disco Elysium Novel, But You Probably Can’t Read It