Disco Elysium Is The Best Game To Play With A Hangover

Playing games with a hangover is a risky business. Play something too loud or too flashy and you risk bringing up last night’s ill-advised kebab, but play something too slow and you’ll drop right off to sleep. Even games like Tetris or Pac-Man are too much for my recovering shambles of a brain on such days, the waka-waka-waka sending signals through my synapses that for some reason tell my stomach to bring up its contents.

Why am I writing about hungover gaming? No reason. It’s definitely nothing to do with the fact it’s a rough Sunday morning and I was at a friend’s wedding last night – I’m a professional who would never turn up to work with my head pounding and ears ringing from constant refrains of Sweet Caroline the night before. But if you ever are in a less professional situation and you want to turn on your PC after a heavy night, there’s only one game to choose. Disco Elysium.

That’s true of almost any situation though. 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 the same; chances are I’ll say Disco Elysium. It’s just a certified banger, and I’ll take any opportunity to advise my friends, colleagues, and strangers to play it. When you’re hungover, though, it takes Studio ZAUM’s narrative RPG to a whole new level.

Some people go all out to roleplay their characters. I’ve never played D&D, but I see players getting into costume, perfecting an accent, bringing props, and never breaking character for the length of a mammoth session. We do this less for video games, as a rule, but when you’re roleplaying a character, you like to get into their mindset and make decisions that you think they would, rather than the ones you necessarily think are right. Disco Elysium has a plethora of options for roleplaying: you can play as a communist, a fascist, an idiot, a kind hearted fool who’s heart is in the right place but just can’t find his gun, or anything in between. You can even lean into the game’s absurdity and play the whole thing as a cryptid hunter, which I would heartily recommend. Every playthrough has one similarity, though: you start with a mean bastard of a hangover.

For the authentic hangover experience, I randomised my stats. By which I mean, I clicked on the screen randomly, groaning. This was another time though, not this morning on a workday. Remember that. Then, I found myself in the painterly city of Martinaise, or more specifically, a fucked up hotel room in the run down city. I’ve played this moment countless times before, but even leaving the room is more of a struggle when your head is really pounding. You feel an affinity with old Harry, and the deathly grimace you make in the mirror hits all too close to home as you remember catching a glimpse of yourself earlier when you were brushing your teeth.

You arguably feel even more of an affinity for the dead body hanging in the tree outside, and this particular playthrough quickly left Mr. Du Bois in a similar position. I left the hotel and found the bookshop, where I browsed the wares and pretended I was a functioning member of society. I was abused by the children at the dead body, and felt the hot shame of Kim’s pitying stare at my back. I’m so sorry Kim. I know I’m fucked up and I know it’s my own fault. Being hungover IRL just makes that shame hit different.

The sounds of the river are an antidote for your hangover – a brief respite, but respite nonetheless. The dice rolls have the opposite effect, the quick shake rattling around your skull like it’s a Vegas craps table every time Harry tries to make a decision. The voice acting of the Final Cut also makes it feel a bit like you’re listening to an audiobook, which I might try doing on my next hangover. I can’t be straining my eyes to read that tiny text at the best of times, let alone when they feel like they’re going to fall out of my skull and roll across my keyboard. The soothing tones of abuse from colleagues, strangers, and children a second time somehow make you feel a little bit better. You don’t feel better, but there’s a tiny portion of your brain, some small sliver of you limbic system that hopes things can get better, tells you you won’t feel this terrible forever, and reminds you that it could be worse, you could be as fucked up as old Harry here.

Just as I was getting into the swing of things, though, I was killed by a chair. You know the one. Evard’s uncomfortable fucker of a chair. It’s a challenge. A test of strength. And I failed. Harry failed, technically, but I did too. I can only imagine Kim’s disappointed stare at our inert body, me and Harry sharing the shame of such a ridiculous death in equal measure.

I rage quit at that point, I hadn’t put enough thought into my stats or the tests I knew were coming. I looked away from my laptop screen and towards the door in my bedroom. It was time for me to get up now, to start trying to figure out if there was some semblance of humanity left in the soulless husk I call my body. I applied my death grimace and made my way downstairs, taking everything slowly so that my aching head didn’t roll off my shoulders. A liberal application of Diet Coke helped slightly, and I figured out what was next. I took a deep breath and sat down in my desk chair. And I survived. Maybe I was going to be alright after all.

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