What do you think about references to drugs in games?

aliensalmon

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I admit that I made a little reference to illegal drugs in my current MV game (and in earlier games, too.) I had a character who was dealing "good stuff" (which is not named). In my upcoming sci-fi project, I'm thinking about making one of my playable alien characters be a druggie (a la "Paul"). I personally think it adds some comedy.
 

Makio-Kuta

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I don't mind drug references in games in the way you described. I think it's important to remember your audience and the message you're giving when you bring drugs into a game. Like, if I saw a druggie in a game meant for children?? I'd be a bit turned off by that (especially if the character was painting the drug use as a positive trait. That's not a message I would want to give a younger audience.)


But in a game meant for older audiences, it's different. An older audience is (USUALLY) mature. They won't make the correlation that "A cool hero who does this thing! I should do that thing to be a cool hero too!" like a child would.
 

LeeOccleshaw

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I'm going to have hallucinogenic mushroom caves and an Alchemy class in my game.  :popcorn:
 

MrLogie

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I think they're fine as long as like @Makio-Kuta said. I personally am also working on a brewing system to make potions, and one of the ingredients is a hallucinogenic. Obvious drug, but nothing too easy that a kid could realize what it was. 
 

Idril

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Don't really mind it, I guess, as long as it's not portrayed in a particularly positive light (like @Makio-Kuta said, if it's not for kids anyway I wouldn't really mind it, but if there's a good chance that kids/teens will be playing and it's not portrayed as something bad, that would be problematic IMO). There are outright references to real-world drugs and their trafficking in games like Call of Duty and the like, and I'm pretty fine with that, because 1) drugs aren't portrayed as a good thing, and 2) they're rated M anyway and it says "drug references" right there in the rating. And for things like hallucinogens in potion-brewing, as other posters described, that seems fairly harmless, especially if it's obscured enough that a kid couldn't think "Hey, that's (insert real-world drug here) that I'm using in this potion".


tl;dr - Don't really see a problem with it if it's not portrayed positively and isn't putting ideas into the minds of impressionable kids. Obscured references should be pretty harmless.
 

Wavelength

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I don't think drug addiction (or the use of drugs in general) has any comedy value whatsoever, but it's also worth noting that drugs are basically just any edible substance that the government restricts or outlaws.  Alcohol and pot are drugs, nearly all medicines are drugs, Brave New World's "soma" is a drug, the Ability Body Crystals in Railgun are drugs... the desire or need for drugs is a very relevant and deep topic that has gone mostly unexplored in video games.
 
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Tai_MT

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Wow, and I thought I was the only one who ever read "Brave New World".

"What brave new world to have such people in it."

To the topic at hand:

I'm honestly only partial to realistic portrayals of drugs.  As in, they're part of the world-building, so they exist because the world exists.  Which means, they aren't there to play for drama, or comedy, or anything else.  They're just a facet of the world.  Two of my favorite examples of this are in The Elder Scrolls and in Fallout.  The drugs exist, they provide temporary benefits and usually long term side-effects like addiction and negative stats.  My only complaint with both games is that "addiction" is too easy to cure.  But, in both games, drugs simply just exist.  The player can choose to use them or not.  It's fairly obvious which characters are using them in game, which are selling them, and which make them.

Personally, I've never found any real drug comedy to be... well... funny.  It's usually about as intelligent as someone farting and then laughing about it.  That's not to say I can't laugh at such low-brow humor...  It's just that it almost never happens.  For me, the funniest parts of "Grandma's Boy" were the stuff at the company with the weirdo guy in charge... and the glaringly obviously terrible research the makers of the movie did on video game design.  I found that far more hilarious than the grandma's getting stoned or the other weird guy and his antics in his basement with exotic animals.  I had the same kind of reaction to "Paul".  I found some of the funniest stuff in that movie to be the things that weren't even drug related, and had more to do with the alien simply palling around with the guys and freaking out the girl.

I think the problem with comedy that revolves around stoner jokes is that... they're only funny to stoners.  Kind of like how Dane Cook is only funny to people who haven't heard funnier jokes.

Yeah, I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule (or maybe I'm the exception), but I just personally haven't ever found stoner comedy very funny and can't understand how others do.  Then again, the only stoners I've ever found any kind of funny are Jay and Silent Bob.  So... maybe that's just my brand of comedy.
 

Dickjutsu

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@Wavelength

I think the problem with comedy that revolves around stoner jokes is that... they're only funny to stoners. 


I could not have said that any more succinctly, myself.
 

Idril

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I'm honestly only partial to realistic portrayals of drugs.  As in, they're part of the world-building, so they exist because the world exists.  Which means, they aren't there to play for drama, or comedy, or anything else.  They're just a facet of the world.
I definitely agree with this, and it's stated much more clearly than my post :)


Also, like @Tai_MT I don't really find drugs and their use funny, or drug comedy to be comedic. They've got side effects and consequences and I personally don't think it's funny to push those real issues of drugs aside just to get a laugh. But that's just me, and I know people who do find drug comedy funny, so everyone's got different tastes and different styles of comedy.
 

LeeOccleshaw

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Drugs are taboo because of how humans control and abuse them - it could be an entirely different situation in a fantasy realm unbound by reality, where people have different desires and different weaknesses. I like how 'drugs' may as well be a form of mind magic (tapping into inhibited parts of the characters mind and even their personality for story's sake (I think blood magic would be much worse for you  :guffaw: ) ) -  it's as simple as keeping your target audience in mind. Like others have said, protect the children, stay away from cliché stoner comedy  and keep your own poison between you and your intelligent adult friends unless it's glamourised like beer.
 
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LaFlibuste

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To add unto what others have said, drugs as we see 'em today are really a societal phenomenon. In some cultures, drugs (or some drugs, at least) were a way to communicate with the gods or whatnot. Mostly, drugs are addictive substances that can alter your perceptions/judgement/behaviour. But a lot of legal substances do those things too. Someone said alcool, for instance. But things like sugar or coffee are also technically drugs.

What I would find most interesting is if you played with those norms in your game, changed the cards a bit. Changed what drugs were considered to be or whatever. Since it's an alien with a different metabolism, maybe his drug is salt or something really common and harmless that really buzzes him.

Also, the rating stuff, I guess.
 

noctiluca

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I have a sci-if story on the backburner (haven't done any game-related stuff for it, just a bunch of text files so far) where the plot essentially revolves around drugs, though the drugs are more used for medical purposes, not recreational.


Though the drug plot line is more like a vehicle for thought experiment than anything. I was inspired by ancient/medieval medical science (stuff that was unfounded) and wanted to toy with the theories in a futuristic/alien setting. Fun.


I think medicine/drugs and the way they can affect people for both good and bad is a really interesting subject to explore. I've known people who have died as a result of drug addictions though, so it's not exactly a funny subject (depending on the drug anyway. There's a difference between, say, weed and heroin. But not everyone is going to "get" pot jokes so you have to be aware of that)
 

Alexander Amnell

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   In a world of violence and monsters, (most games) you'd think drug use would be a secondary consideration at best. To add to what others have said, the definition of an illicit drug changes with time anyway, go back in history 150 years and you'll find an America that embraced Marijuana as much if not more so than they did tobacco, historical accounts show that some of the most prominent and well-respected figures in the country's history were stoners, drug farmers and other bad things that would condemn them as 'worthless degenerate criminals' by society today. It's all about perspective, and as a world-building tool I've always found the inclusion of societies without those taboos (or with different taboos entirely) fascinating if well thought out. (the mud people in SoT come to mind).


    Another thing to keep in mind, however, is that all drugs are not created equal. Abraham Lincoln may have been one of the greatest statesmen in American history even though he admits in journals to partaking in recreational drugs regularly both in and out of office, yet his historical legacy would likely have been a vastly different animal (probably non-existent, actually) had he been blitzed out on opiates instead. Pushing conventional wisdom is okay, but if you are dealing with truly addictive substances that either exist or are mirrors of things that do, I think it's important to know to some extent what you are representing to make sure you don't accidentally glamorize things that are truly abhorrent to society. I mean, we can debate all day whether pot, shrooms, alcohol etc can be beneficial to people at times, and should or shouldn't be illegal and come up with pros and cons for both opinions but then there's meth and other drugs that screw you up so badly that the addicted (soon after becoming addicted and beyond, at least), friends and family of the addicted and even the dealer selling the drug would all agree unanimously have no benefits whatsoever at the end of the day other than the power of the addiction itself (as a boon for the dealer, obviously).
 
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aliensalmon

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So, from what I've read in this topic...stoner comedy is a no-go. Hmm...I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for the responses!
 

Makio-Kuta

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Well, it depends on the target audience. If your target audience is 'the people who replied to this thread' then it looks like stoner jokes are a no-go. If your audience is larger than this or a different environment than this website - that could be different.


Comedy is a difficult thing to write - because everyone has a different brand of humour and not everyone is going to 'get it.' It's REALLY important when writing comedy stuff to know the audience that you want to speak to.


Let's say, hypothetically, you wanted to write a game filled with in-jokes from this forum - everyone loves it! Reception is so good you decide to take it commercial on Steam. No one on Steam gets any of the jokes and the game does poorly. Now let's say you make a game filled with 'stoner comedy' and release it to the people in this thread. None of us get (or appreciate) the jokes, and we don't have much to say for the game. You could turn around and present that game to a different group of people who have more interaction with 'stoner comedy' and they could tell you it's the funniest thing they've seen all their lives.


Personally, when making a game that is hinged on comedy, I recommend playing the comedy at a few different angles. No one person has to get every joke in a game. Let's say you have a game that relies on both 'stoner comedy' and, idk, jokes about elephants. Now you've opened the gates to people who are going to say, "The stuff about the elephants was really funny, dude!" and "All them elephants were strange, but the stoner guy was hilarious!" and "STONER ELEPHANTS!? That's my jam!" Obviously, group three was your intended audience - but you were able to scoop up two other audiences at the same time.


The majority of people in this thread didn't come across as saying, "Yo, don't do that." The general consensuses seemed to be "It wouldn't upset me, but it's not my brand of comedy." So if you want to tell a story about a stoner alien, don't stop just because we here said we might not get it. Somewhere, you have an audience that is going to match your brand of humour. (I mean, unless you suck at telling jokes, but then that's not the stoner alien's fault. ;)


EITHER WAY - if you are going to include drug abuse or allusions to it (be it for serious world building or comedy), put a warning somewhere in your game thread or at the start of the game. As for some people, drugs have had negative impacts on their lives.
 

aliensalmon

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Well, it depends on the target audience. If your target audience is 'the people who replied to this thread' then it looks like stoner jokes are a no-go. If your audience is larger than this or a different environment than this website - that could be different.


Comedy is a difficult thing to write - because everyone has a different brand of humour and not everyone is going to 'get it.' It's REALLY important when writing comedy stuff to know the audience that you want to speak to.


Let's say, hypothetically, you wanted to write a game filled with in-jokes from this forum - everyone loves it! Reception is so good you decide to take it commercial on Steam. No one on Steam gets any of the jokes and the game does poorly. Now let's say you make a game filled with 'stoner comedy' and release it to the people in this thread. None of us get (or appreciate) the jokes, and we don't have much to say for the game. You could turn around and present that game to a different group of people who have more interaction with 'stoner comedy' and they could tell you it's the funniest thing they've seen all their lives.


Personally, when making a game that is hinged on comedy, I recommend playing the comedy at a few different angles. No one person has to get every joke in a game. Let's say you have a game that relies on both 'stoner comedy' and, idk, jokes about elephants. Now you've opened the gates to people who are going to say, "The stuff about the elephants was really funny, dude!" and "All them elephants were strange, but the stoner guy was hilarious!" and "STONER ELEPHANTS!? That's my jam!" Obviously, group three was your intended audience - but you were able to scoop up two other audiences at the same time.


The majority of people in this thread didn't come across as saying, "Yo, don't do that." The general consensuses seemed to be "It wouldn't upset me, but it's not my brand of comedy." So if you want to tell a story about a stoner alien, don't stop just because we here said we might not get it. Somewhere, you have an audience that is going to match your brand of humour. (I mean, unless you suck at telling jokes, but then that's not the stoner alien's fault. ;)


EITHER WAY - if you are going to include drug abuse or allusions to it (be it for serious world building or comedy), put a warning somewhere in your game thread or at the start of the game. As for some people, drugs have had negative impacts on their lives.


Ah, I get what you're saying. I guess I should diversify my jokes in this new game.
 

TheGamedawg

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The idea has never really bothered me.  For me, it all depends if it fits the context of the world or not.


If you want an example of how an addicted protagonist can be done well, take a look at the game Lisa: The Painful.  The character struggles with his addiction the entire game and even gets a "withdrawal" status ailment if he doesn't take it after a while.
 
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Dickjutsu

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All that being the case, stoner comedy has multiple levels, too.  For instance Jim Bruer's movie half baked...I didn't find funny.


But this scene in Batman Beyond was funny:





Drug humor, or drug use within a game, can especially be engaging if both sides of the coin are examined.  For instance in the Batman Beyond episode I just reference, for doing a good job the purple-haired henchman, Ollie, gets a tuning fork that when placed next to his head causes the a Euphoric release of endorphins in his brain.  The bad guy uses this to keep him loyal, as he's become addicted to it.


So, spoiler alert, when Batman attacks and the bad guy needs help...Ollie is sitting in a corner with the tuning fork against his head, totally oblivious to the 5-minute long battle that has been going on behind him, nearly dropping the building on top of him.


That's funny, to me at least.


Simple drug references can be amusing, like Final Fantasy 7 having an item called Loco Weed.  You use it and the screen spins around and fills with smoke, then when the smoke clears all the enemies have the [Confused] status ailment.


An item that perhaps boosts all your stats by double for two turns of a battle, but then permanently decreases a random stat by 1 is an interesting mechanic involving drug use.  Or if you want to go a marijuana-like route, an item that causes your character to take less damage because he feels less pain...but randomly misses his turn because he 'forgot' to act.


It's all about how you do things.  If you just make a bunch of dialogue where the characters are high and talking about being high and about how they good they feel as the world comes crashing down around them, and how hungry they are, then...stoners will enjoy it because that's their outlook on life.  But people who don't get stoned regularly will try to skip the scene, or even just shut off the game because they're bored or annoyed.
 
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Plenty of us "stoners" live completely fulfilling lives, work hard all day at our jobs, raise families, put our kids through college, are active politically, don't raid the fridge every time we have a puff or two, and don't sit around on our couch all day going "duuuude my hands are so big... what were we talking about again?"


And that's the problem with stoner "humor". Most of it is written by people who only subscribe to the stereotypes, and think that's funny. Even Chapelle's "Half Baked" movie was a much stronger, smarter and less slap-stick film before Hollywood got ahold of it.


Indeed, there are plenty of potsmokers who live up to the stereotype, and us "smart smokers" despise them as much as all of you non-smokers. I toke daily, but even I hate how it's portrayed in media most of the time. Look at Grand Theft Auto V - in 25 years of smoking the finest, I've never, ever reacted the way the characters do there.


To each their own though. My opinion is, if you market your game to the appropriate audience, you'll do fine, if the writing is up to par. I do agree with the folks above who said that if it includes drug humor, it isn't for children.
 
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Tuomo L

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Of course there should be drug references. It'd be absurd if there'd be none, especially if there's stuff like shamans and spirit talking.


Lord of the Rings has drug references too.
 

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