Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

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Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Datadog » Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:50 pm

I'm working on a game right now and I was wondering: what is the general feel like for depicting alcohol use in a commercial product? Especially among parents.

To clarify, my game's target audience is in the young adult range. 12 and up seems right. I wanted to use games like Monkey Island, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango as a general guideline, but I think the social climate has changed over 20 years. I don't think it's wise for me to depict a young person like Guybrush Threepwood talking about booze in a game that's targeted at a youth audience. So one of my rules while writing is not to depict anyone under the age of 21 expressing an interest in drinking. My main character's 19 and drinking's not part of her story anyway, so it's easy rule to abide by.

But then there's the question of depicting older people drinking. This is where it gets finicky, because one of my characters is the burned-out, laid-back type who sits by the pool drinking mai tais. Her behaviour is classic "Captain Haddock" or "Tony Stark" where it would be unrealistic to assume she isn't drinking. I can use subtext to tiptoe around her issue most of the time, but she does have an abuse problem that she eventually needs to overcome, and I'd like to know where lines can be drawn. For a young adult audience, should references to mini-bars, pub crawls, and specific drink names be cut? Can she speak in slurred sentences? Can she make light of her own behaviour as long as her friends don't enable her?

I can't find any literary guidelines on this issue, so I was wondering how people in general might approach this. I've already come under fire a couple times for making light of alcohol use in some of my games and books and wanted to try a different approach to the subject.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Tawmis » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:15 pm

Datadog wrote:But then there's the question of depicting older people drinking. This is where it gets finicky, because one of my characters is the burned-out, laid-back type who sits by the pool drinking mai tais. Her behaviour is classic "Captain Haddock" or "Tony Stark" where it would be unrealistic to assume she isn't drinking. I can use subtext to tiptoe around her issue most of the time, but she does have an abuse problem that she eventually needs to overcome, and I'd like to know where lines can be drawn. For a young adult audience, should references to mini-bars, pub crawls, and specific drink names be cut? Can she speak in slurred sentences? Can she make light of her own behaviour as long as her friends don't enable her?


I think as long as it's clear that said character isn't younger, then you're not going to get any lashings about it. I also thinking showing (some) background (likely through dialogue) as to why said person is a washed up drinker, probably helps (rather than it being a person drinking for the sake of drinking).

A lot of comic book characters (since you mentioned Tony Stark), have indeed, cleared up the whole drinking (and even smoking). It was not uncommon in the 80's to see a panel with Wolverine smoking a cigar, and holding a six pack of beer (that he then uses a claw to cut off the top and chug). Now? Marvel's most lethal mutant is never seen smoking and very rarely seen drinking, because of the reflection it has on kids (who might look up to Wolverine as a hero... which, considering his past, is still odd in itself). :lol:
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Datadog » Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:08 am

Tawmis wrote:I think as long as it's clear that said character isn't younger, then you're not going to get any lashings about it. I also thinking showing (some) background (likely through dialogue) as to why said person is a washed up drinker, probably helps (rather than it being a person drinking for the sake of drinking).

A lot of comic book characters (since you mentioned Tony Stark), have indeed, cleared up the whole drinking (and even smoking). It was not uncommon in the 80's to see a panel with Wolverine smoking a cigar, and holding a six pack of beer (that he then uses a claw to cut off the top and chug). Now? Marvel's most lethal mutant is never seen smoking and very rarely seen drinking, because of the reflection it has on kids (who might look up to Wolverine as a hero... which, considering his past, is still odd in itself). :lol:


I remember cigar-smoking Logan. There were also old Disney cartoons where Pinocchio and Dumbo got wasted for laughs. And many Sierra games feature a joke where drinking results in inverted controls. I think a lot of those companies went through the same ordeal I am, because they gradually downplayed alcoholism as they continued.

I think your route may be the way to go, with a sincere backstory. I tried replacing my character's habit with coffee/sugar addiction, but partway into the game, it became way too ridiculous to write around. Some personality archetypes simply feel right with a drink in their hand. I think a better guideline I'm looking for is Captain Jack's alcoholism from the Pirates movies, but how they got away with it for five movies, I'll never know.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Tawmis » Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:18 am

Datadog wrote:I think your route may be the way to go, with a sincere backstory. I tried replacing my character's habit with coffee/sugar addiction, but partway into the game, it became way too ridiculous to write around. Some personality archetypes simply feel right with a drink in their hand. I think a better guideline I'm looking for is Captain Jack's alcoholism from the Pirates movies, but how they got away with it for five movies, I'll never know.


You know how they got away with it? It's quite clever.

It's insinuated he suffered from alcoholism, but to my memory - they never show him actually drink. I think the one time he has a drink in his hand, there's a bar fight and the glass gets broke before he can drink it.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby JasefWisener » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:22 pm

They show Jack drinking -a lot- in the franchise. As one example of many: https://youtu.be/2CMsyVwEf8c?t=3m16s
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Tawmis » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:41 pm

JasefWisener wrote:They show Jack drinking -a lot- in the franchise. As one example of many: https://youtu.be/2CMsyVwEf8c?t=3m16s


Ah - yes, the island where she burns the rum. I had forgotten that.

(Clearly I need to rewatch the series) :lol:
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Datadog » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:43 am

I do remember Jack taking a swig at the end of the third pirates movie in the rowboat. I guess context is important, where you get more slack if your character is a drinking archetype, like a pirate or detective. Disney probably held a few meetings over those scenes.

I think this is mainly a sensitive issue in US/Canada. I've worked on a few TV shows with very strict guidelines for behaviour. Like in some shows, you can never show a fist contacting a head, or a hand around a neck. But as Tawmis suggested, doing something simple like never showing her drink or detailing the contents of her glass might work. Short of completely rewriting her character to not drink at all.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Collector » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:05 am

Alcohol and Disney are no strangers.

disneydrunkmainhp-youtube_merc3naryproductions.jpg


3-pluto-youtube_MERC3NARYPRODUCTIONS.jpg


4-smee2-youtube_AllieTee100.jpg


6-donaldduck-youtube_Raunchola.jpg


8-101dalmations-youtube_waltdisney406.jpg


9-sleepingbeauty-youtube_MarioLuisDMTV.jpg


And lastly, Pink elephants on Parade.

1-dumbo-youtube_David-White.jpg




There are, of course, more examples, too.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Rath Darkblade » Thu Sep 28, 2017 8:19 am

Heh. All this talk of drinking reminds me of the very first long-term writing project I ever embarked on... it was in 1995, and I was young and silly, so I thought of re-writing the entire QfG arc with a thief-hero (called Paravan) who was both a drunk and trying (not very hard) to quit. ;) It allowed me a huge amount of freedom to work in drunk jokes, such as the hero freeing Elsa from the Brigands in QfG1 despite being drunk as a skunk - she took one look at him and thought "Nah, he's not worth killing"; he belched hugely and stumbled on a spare Dispel Potion, which fell off the shelf and on Elsa. Cue ze inevitable bad German accent: "You ztupid idiot, viz your belchink!" etc. ;)

As time went on, it became more sophisticated (with politics in QfG3, etc.) - but the kattas in Shapeir still managed to send him off to QfG3 with a song - "The Ballad of Paravan the Plastered". Even so, it only ever achieved a PG rating (15+). ;)

I think it really depends on how much drinking you want your protagonist to do. Mine got drunk fairly often, but also paid the price for all that drinking and became tired, cynical and world-weary by the middle of the final story ("Quest for Sobriety V: Dragon's Breath Fire"). ;) Similarly, Philip Marlowe (Raymond Chandler's PI) might be an eight-whiskeys-a-day sort of guy, but consider what a crapsack world he lives in: he's the only even-slightly-straight man in a world with corrupt police, violent crooks and deceitful clients, and yet he STILL manages to solve his cases.

So to make a long story short (too late, sorry!), I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with a protagonist who occasionally drinks alcohol. (Just look at Leisure Suit Laffer, or the hero from QfG, or Sonny Bonds... etc.) If one of your older character is drinking to excess, then you can play it straight (like Philip Marlowe, who needs a drink to see the world the right way up) or you can play it for laughs (like my fan-fic QfG hero). Your drunkard can definitely speak in slurred sentences, and she can definitely make light of her own behaviour... e.g. "Lea' m'lone, ociffer! I'm no' doin' nuffin'wron', 'm leg'lly drun' so 'ts legal! Nuffin wron' widdat!" *hic*

Her friends can egg her on (in which case, they're dubious friends) or they can try to help her. I'm not sure what you mean by a "young adult" audience - do you mean the same kind of audience for whom games like KQ1 was written? If so, you might want to cut out references to pub crawls, but you don't have to cut specific drink names - but you can be oblique about it (e.g. referring to cognac as "Hennessy's", as in Hennessy's VSOP... e.g. "Barkeep! Ya biserable mastard! Gimme a sho' o' Hennessy's!") 12 year olds won't know what "Hennessy's" is, but they'll get the general idea and will probably appreciate the game not being dumbed down too much).

I'm not saying that your character has to strut around chewing the scenery or anything blatant like that, but too much in the other direction would make your character bland and lifeless. People get drunk in real life, and it's wrong to suggest anything else. *shrug*
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby BBP » Thu Sep 28, 2017 12:16 pm

Most of the games I've seen that are aimed at that age category are so brutally violent it amazes me you even care about such a thing as alcohol abuse...
The current trend in The Netherlands is to de-normalize alcohol and tobacco use - the age limit for low-alcohol drinks like beer was 16 when I was a kid, it's now illegal to drink under 18, to buy when you're under 18 and to sell to people under 18. It wouldn't have been an issue 5 years ago to portrait drinkers.

Sierra's drinking games? Ehm...
KQ6 Genie acts drunk when under the influence of mint
GK1 has Napoleon House
in GK2 Gabriel and Von Glower spend a night boozing
GK3 has Wilkes drunk of course (apparently by Grace's actions), there's a vineyard prominently featured where all of the tour group, and during the interview, Gabriel, sample wine without adverse affects.
LSL1 player can drink, with extra impaired walking added. There's an entire bar drinking, a boozehound in the hallway, and a boozehound who you have to give a gallon of wine to in order to progress. Wine is needed to progress in the Fawn section. Taking wine with you in the taxi will show you some adverse affects.
LSL2 Player can drink in the restaurant atop the ship with nasty side effects.
LSL3 I'm not sure what they drink in the strip club...
LSL6 has a booze party at the Employees Only, and there's Burgundy downing an unholy number of longnecks. Player can drink with as only effect that the point count will go down. Also the end girl is bought with champagne.
LSL7 has a massive champagne jacuzzi and a cock...tail by the name of Gigantic Erection. You can also order cocktails ad nauseam at Johnson's, where you get an interesting glass every time but otherwise no ill effects.
Colonel's Bequest has Ethel being inebriated most time.
LB2 forces drinking at the reception and of course has vats of alcohol.
Phantas has absynthe
...

Any others?


You mentioned Grim Fandango, which in Rubacava has Glottis getting very drunk for comedic effect at the cat races, and the Coffin drink that knocks out every one of the skeletons who consume it. Glottis just gets mildly disturbed by it in the final chapter.

Leaving drinks out - I think it's nice but you'll have to be careful that it still seems natural.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Datadog » Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:10 pm

BBP wrote:Most of the games I've seen that are aimed at that age category are so brutally violent it amazes me you even care about such a thing as alcohol abuse...


I thought it was unusual too, but when I released "Chester Cornfield" a couple years ago, a few LPers were less-than-amused by all the drunk jokes (basically, every character drinks scotch in place of water.) Same thing happened with "Late Last Nite" (the whole game is a pub crawl gone wrong). The violence and swearing owl didn't come up as much as the casual drinking.

The general impression I get is that the younger generation isn't as amused by inebriation as mine was. They'll engage in it, but they don't glorify it in the same way. Even the 21 year-olds in my office aren't as big on Beer Fridays as the rest of us. When I was a kid, I remember the "Just Say No" rap songs and "This is your brain on drugs" ads that left me more entertained/confused than educated. But today's social media is exposing kids to real-life horror stories, drunken texts, and celebrity scandals on a near daily basis. There's definitely a growing stigma in there.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby notbobsmith » Thu Sep 28, 2017 7:02 pm

BBP wrote:Any others?


Rath mentioned Sonny from Police Quest. You can arrest someone for DUI in PQ1 and PQ3. There are also two places where Sonny can drink in PQ1. He's also apparently immune to the effects of alcohol.

There's a bar in Tahiti in Codename: Iceman where you can drink.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby Rath Darkblade » Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:08 am

Datadog wrote:
BBP wrote:Most of the games I've seen that are aimed at that age category are so brutally violent it amazes me you even care about such a thing as alcohol abuse...


I thought it was unusual too, but when I released "Chester Cornfield" a couple years ago, a few LPers were less-than-amused by all the drunk jokes (basically, every character drinks scotch in place of water.) Same thing happened with "Late Last Nite" (the whole game is a pub crawl gone wrong). The violence and swearing owl didn't come up as much as the casual drinking.


Honestly, I thought that the scotch-drinking in "Chester Cornfield" was half about comedy value and half about historical accuracy. ;) I don't know about the US, but in the UK, clean drinking water wasn't available in large quantities in the major cities (even London!) until the mid-1920s. I'm pretty sure that in the US it was similar, and I don't think too many people realise that. But when you think about it, hard drinking in the US until the Volstead Act of 1919 (better known as Prohibition) was absolutely RAMPANT. Why else would there have been so many Prohbitionists smashing up kegs and bars?

At any rate, I appreciated the fact that everyone in "Chester Cornfield" drank alcohol. If they didn't, I would have thought "Hang on... who are these people?!? Is this 1909 or 2009?" :P

Political correctness be DAMNED if it means that early-20th-century characters have to act like they're from the 21st century. People back then - especially in rural areas - generally (by today's standards) drank a lot more alcohol, swore a lot more freely, and were much more casually racist, sexist, religious etc. I'm not saying that there weren't ANY good people, but by and large, society back then was not as sensitive as it is now - and it's stupid to pretend that things were any other way. :x
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby adeyke » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:42 am

Rath Darkblade wrote:Political correctness be DAMNED if it means that early-20th-century characters have to act like they're from the 21st century. People back then - especially in rural areas - generally (by today's standards) drank a lot more alcohol, swore a lot more freely, and were much more casually racist, sexist, religious etc. I'm not saying that there weren't ANY good people, but by and large, society back then was not as sensitive as it is now - and it's stupid to pretend that things were any other way. :x


That depends entirely on the goal of the work in question. If the goal is to accurately portray the history of the period in question, then yes, omitting those ugly parts would be whitewashing. However, that isn't what a lot of works set out to do. If they're instead trying to make the audience laugh, to inspire them, to tell a good story, or whatever else, the author can just take those parts of a setting that are conducive to that and change what isn't.

People in any historical period didn't have the option to have heroic adventures, either. To be realistic, a work would generally have to be about doing hard, tedious labor all day just to survive. And if someone is playing a game (or reading a book, etc.) to escape from the tedium they face in real life, they might also want to escape from the bigotry they face in real life.
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Re: Depicting Alcohol Use in a Game

Postby mendosa » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:45 am

Well, Tex Murphy drank a lot. And what about Monkey Island? Not to mention Sherlock Holmes with his scotch and a cigar or a cigarette. ;)
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