[Here's me, whoring out my new blog Backwards Compatible. This is part of an editorial I did; if you like what you see, check out the site (yep, just click that link) for the full editorial, where I talk more about the NARC remake, Max Payne, and Haze, and show pretty pictures!]
So…like…dude, can I be serious with you for a sec? Like…have you ever really thought about, like, how video games look at drugs? I just, like, TOTALLY thought about this while playing Saint’s Row last night, man. Like…that game has you taking actual drugs, dude! Seriously, you can go into CORNER STORES and totally buy weed and booze, and, like, have your character smoke and drink on-screen! AND THEN THE SCREEN CHANGES! Seriously, man, it’s crazy. But, I was wondering how far back games actually dealt with drugs. It’s a heavy issue, to be sure; drugs and the war against them have been around for decades, man. So, it’s only, like, reasonable that an artistic medium like games would deal with it at some point. So I had to see when the relationship with drugs and games, like, started. And, dude, I totally found some crazy shit, man.
Like, first of all, as most people know, the original drug-focused game was the arcade title NARC, which I think came out in…88, maybe? Like, that was towards the end of Reagan’s presidency, which we all know was a time of strict policy changes in the war on drugs. With um…what was her name? OH, yeah, Nancy, and all that “Just Say No” business, which was a huge campaign to get kids off of drugs and alcohol. Man, that shit was everywhere, even the arcades. I can remember walking through a row of cabinets and, like, as they played their demo screens, there’d always be a break where a “Winners Don’t Do Drugs” sign would pop up. Remember that? Damn, the FBI and Department of Justice slapped that sign on every arcade machine in the US from 1989 to 2000. Wow. That’s unbelievable, dude.
...where was I going with this?
Oh, right, NARC. Anyway, if you don’t know about this, man, the game was your typical side-scrolling beat-em-up, which was fuckin’ everywhere back in the day. You got to chose one of 2 characters, Max…something, or Hit Man, and you had 2 weapons: an automatic rifle and a kickass missile launcher. Basically, you went through the game taking down drug lords and dealers in all kinds of crazy places, like K.R.A.K. street, a junkyard, and even some dude’s growhouse! Oh, and whenever you offed a guy, he’d drop cash and narcotics, which added up to your score at the end of a level, like the cash bags you’d find in like Streets of Rage (remember that shit dude!).
So, like…what’s the point in talking about this stuff, man? Yeah, it’s cool to, like, see where video games have gotten in terms of dealing with…y’know…real world issues and stuff. But, I, like, don’t think games have gone far enough in talking about this kinda stuff. I’m talking, like, I wanna see a game that confronts drugs and issues like addiction head-on, in the least violent way possible. I mean, all those games I just talked about are shooters. You’ve never seen a puzzle or, like, RPG deal with this shit, man. But, sometimes even the shooters can get it right. Like, thank God for GTA 4, and Fallout 3. They’re the only TRUE games that, at least, like, ATTEMPT to deal with how drugs can fuck with ya. Oh, and, dude, in GTA 4, you can get blind, stinkin’ drunk, too! ‘cept, in that game, there’s a real-world-equivalent, like…detriment to drinking and driving. Yeah, alcohol actually impairs your driving habits, which is huge. It amazes me that, like, those moms that are against drunk driving (…MADD, or somethig angry like that) would be against that: it’s showing kids, in a medium they’re, like, accustomed to, what happens if you drink and drive. Oh, and, dude, Fallout 3 takes this to an even higher level. In that game, you can take drugs that blur your vision a bit, and, like, if you take too much of them, you actually get fucking addicted, man. Yeah! It’s the first game to offer addiction as a play mechanic (next to NARC, but, hell NARC didn’t do it like this)! Like, the addiction can actually kill you if left alone! Insane, yeah. I’ve never seen anything like what these games offer in terms of consequences stemming from drug use, but I hope to see, like, more of that from games as people begin to broaden the horizons of storytelling and gameplay.