94 comments on “Drugs in Gaming

  1. So, are you considering Mario’s use mushrooms as potentially drug-related? (Just asking because of the picture) I would also say that Fallout attempts to give a much more realistic type of gameplay. If you go into survivor mode, it is probably one of the games that most closely mirrors real-life survival in a wasteland, to the extent that a video game can.

    • Regarding the Mario picture, I wasn’t even sure myself if I was implying shenanigans. It falls very much under the power-up side of things as opposed to mimicking real drugs, and yet the fact remains that there are products like Magic mushrooms out there which induce senses of euphoria and power. This, for me, justified placing the picture in the article.

      As for Fallout New Vegas, I would completely agree with you in that it is an accurate simulation to life in the desert. However in this particular article I was focusing on it’s predecessor Fallout 3, a game much closer to my heart and my first article and review for this Blog.


      • Consider also the 60s song “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane…it’s a song about Alice in Wonderland as a metaphor for psychedelic drug use where “one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small”…metaphorically, as you suggest, becoming larger alludes to euphoria/elation and becoming smaller alludes to sedation/being tranquillized

      • Mario’s mushrooms actually look like a real psychoactive mushroom called Amanita Muscaria. They were used by ancient warriors to make them feel invincible. There’s no evidence that the creators of Super Mario Bros. did this on purpose, but it’s certainly interesting.

  2. Excellent article, and it seems very well researched. Just got to wonder what happens if bath salts get into games; would you have to deal with zombies, or just idiots who act like zombies?

  3. In the game Bulletstorm, the character drinks alcohol and kills are given bonus points because the vision gets blurry and the ‘motor skills’ are not as good.
    There is also alcohol drinking in Dead Island.

    Do you consider alcohol a drug? Could be…

  4. Well said! I think we are far too willing to turn a blind eye to dangerous ideas as long long as they are wrapped in a thick coating of fun. I also enjoyed the little mushroom example at the end. Brilliant post!

    • The increasing trend to portray drugs in a negative light is a sign of gaming maturing as an art form. If this continues then video games may just reach the same tier of respect that the cinema industry commands.

  5. I agree with you about fallout 3 (and new vegas), a limited used of chem because of their addictive effect makes the gameplay more interesting (to me) and maybe that’s what the developer want (in the first place)

    and if I’m not mistaken, FarCry 2 also using drug reference (for healing the health point or the malaria) 😕

      • well … an FPS with some sanbox element in it using a large map and you can travel to anyplace in the map using a car or a boat, buying and upgrade weapon, also a mission to get the drug (malaria drug) and a bunch of side quest (that is up to the player to take it or not) …. abit similar with fallout in some aspect but it’s FPS, no leveling, no skill, no SPECIAL …. just shot whenever you found an enemy and try to survived if enemy found you 😀

        … but if you like FPS genre, I would recommend it 😀

  6. I have mixed feelings about whether “drugs’ ” removal from video games will serve any positive purpose. While Mario’s mushrooms could be viewed as psilocybin (or just an energizing vegan snack) the rest of the game involves the wanton extermination of turtles!

    I’m unfamiliar with Fallout and Bioshock but I imagine somewhere along the line their game strategies involves pitting oneself against other beings, both mortal and undead. Which is the more serious influence (if a video game influences a player’s behaviour in any parallel way in the real world)… promoting killing as a problem-solving technique or using drugs (or a nice light snack) to give you that extra energy to increase your chances that your rampage will be a successful one?

    I’ve gotta tell you, I made it all the way through several Mario-themed games on three successively more advanced game systems and I have never once taken silocybin, killed a turtle (or a Koopah King), or become vegan.

    • I didn’t mean to imply that drug portrayal in-game will influence people to such an extent. I’m merely expressing concern regarding the immaturity and carelessness with which they’re treated.

      Your point about killing being more of a serious influence is a sentiment I share. I will be writing an article concerning violence in video games and expressing my personal opinion on it.

      Thank you for your detailed response.

  7. Congrats on being FP! And yes, I have noticed many drugs in many games. I laughed when I saw Bioshock. Forgot about that game. Great game. In the game Haze, it is all about a drug that the government uses. It wasn’t a good game, though.

  8. Well written article, gratz on freshly pressed! Drug abuse is a sad situation. But it’s really just a form of escapism, which is never healthy. Anytime you do something excessively to avoid your actual life, its escapism. TV, Movies, Games (recovered world of warcraft junkie! I was the best Druid EVER), alcohol, drugs, and yes, probably blogging can all be forms of escapism!

    Now granted some things are worse then others! If you blog excessively, its better then going on meth, and I sure as heck kicked WOW easier then any hard drugs would be once I got wrapped up in my real life instead.

    Come read and discuss the world’s problems and solutions! I just finished a 3 part series on the mind and belief, talked about sustainable agriculture, income inequality, government, and origins.

    • Thank you for your reply, and I’ll certainly check out your posts as soon as I can. Does anyone know how I got freshly pressed? I’ve been blogging for 4 days only, so I’m very new to this whole scene.

      Also, congratz on breaking free from WOW, a friend of mine had to detox from it as well. 🙂

  9. wow this was really interesting, and it definately is a real issue in the otherwise “realistic” portrayal of many games. Congrats on freshly pressed!

  10. Interesting post. I do like the fact that they are portraying realistic effects from the drugs. Perhaps this will keep players from becoming drug users if they understand what they can do to you.

  11. I loved this. The chems were such a big deal in other countries they had to edit the names and some of the effects. Crazy. I thought “Shrooms” when I saw the Mario pick and felt it was perfect. 🙂 You never know – perhaps he did feel out of it and thought he was suddenly bigger or something. Shoot – eat flowers and he is spitting out fire. Sounds like a trip to me. 🙂 I guess I never thought of the negative connotations to Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas’ use of chems were making it look or see as if its a good thing or okay, or lowering the importance of limiting Stimpacks. The reality, comparing it to morphine…a drunk that simply does not allow you to feel pain…Stimpacks is one that restores health….I will say this: Where do you find the most chems in the game? Around dead skeletons in bathrooms all over the Wasteland. Just a thought. Great post!

  12. Another game you could mention: the classic game Starcraft. It has Terran Marines that are injected with “Stimpack” that works like steroid making them more aggressive and fast

  13. With regards to Fallout 3, I remember that they were originally going to include “real,” drugs like Heroin, etc, but changed the names in the end in order to make it less offensive. Cool article though.

  14. thanks for the eye opener Michael!…had never explored this angle of games…but if used correctly they can be a brilliant agent for social change.

  15. At least there are hard to earn coveted achievements/trophies in completing a game without energy tanks (Megaman) or health potions (a whole bunch). Just as possible as completing a level without getting hit 😉 ! If a player chooses (they’re not forced to) to go ahead and spend all their gold on potions and steroid rage through a gauntlet of enemies instead of good old fashioned duck’n’cover… well, there goes 100% platinum. Game guides/walkthroughs and drugs can’t make a player awesome.

  16. I was thinking mushrooms and Mario were a type of male, libido enhancment suggestion. If a person ate mushrooms to gain some enchanted state like that from the original Zelda games, deep fried mushrooms from the local mom and pop diner are best. lol! Optican health care on demand is alwsys good for a laugh.

  17. Really interesting article. Very thought provoking. I enjoyed it immensely. =0)

    It just goes to show the levels of desensitization that are experienced by most game players. It definitely gives one something to think about.

    I stick mostly to the Final Fantasy realm, myself, but, really, It has it’s potions and drugs, too.

    It’s interesting how you mention the difference between the drugs that heal and the drugs that cause different side effects.

    “…the decision to omit Stimpaks from the addictive substance list highlights the worlds regard of painkilling drugs against recreational drugs.”

    There definitely seems to be a blind eye turned there, when, really, a drug is a drug, is a drug. They should all be treated with respect.

    I look forward to your “bath salts” article. ;0) That cracked me up. =0)

  18. “Every year, the video game industry improves and furthers itself to maturely deal with controversial topics such as these, and this fellow gamers, is a good thing.” This is so true. Well said.

  19. You have an interesting article. I am absolutely amaze at your facts. When playing that games in the past is truly a hit. But then again, I never thought of that.

  20. If someone already said this, I apologize, but I didn’t see it mentioned: I am pretty sure the mushroom in Super Mario is an Amanita Muscaria. It looks identical to it. It’s considered a poisonous mushroom because it will kill you if you eat too much, but also is regarded to have hallucinogenic properties with the right dosage amount – but that is a scary proposition. Pretty sure it’s not worth dying for. Fascinating though 🙂 Nice article, very cool subject to cover.

  21. The damage done by the needle need not reveal itself immediately. Some of these gaming universes could find creative ways to show how drugs have hurt their users. I.e, ten years after the events of the game, the lead character in Bioshock could learn that ADAM has permanently damaged his or her germline, thereby preventing him or her from having children.

    All it takes is some creative writing!

  22. I see where you’re coming from with this, but here’s my opinion;

    Bioshock; I understand how it looks as though your character is immune to the use of ADAM and the various power ups, but what you have to remember is the splicers had been using this drug for years, and you have only been on Rapture a matter of, well, days? You cannot accurately depict the decline of the human mind and body due to drug use over a manner of days as opposed to years. ADAM is also used as a form of MP for the player as well, so would you also say that every single RPG character is a drug addicted nut job for drinking blue and red potions?

    Fallout; If they had allowed Stimpacks to become an addictive substance, then all fun in the game would have been removed, and likely people would have given up due to their lack of being able to heal themselves without in turn becoming addicted. I see your point with the other drugs however, and they were implemented well to show addiction, even alcoholism. This was however also explored in Bioshock as you could pick up cigarettes and beer/wine which would in turn decrease your HP or ADAM count.

    Finally, they’re just games. Watching my character in Bioshock has never made me want to inject myself with a rusty needle, nor has Fallout made me want to dose myself with morphine just because I’ve got a little ache or a pain.

    • Those are good points you bring up, especially about Bioshock. I feel the need to stress that this is an opinion article, and I accept that other peoples opinions could be different.

      Thank you for your feedback.

  23. I guess the drug use is often overlooked and considered not as important since they are littered with violence is the drug use really that bad in comparison?

  24. I’ve always known that video games promote violence, but I never really thought about the presence of drugs. It’s a scary notion that video games are indirectly desensitizing our youth by having drug-using-forms which gives players performance boosts. I mean, I was taken aback with Mario and the mushrooms! Hopefully you’re right when you say that the gaming industry is working on getting rid of this rather dangerous, subconscious message.

    Great post!

  25. It’s so ironic because when I was growing up, my parents used to call video games themselves a drug. This is a fascinating argument and I’m sure that Bioshock and Fallout are not the only games that have obvious drug use. For me, what comes to mind off the top of my head is Resident Evil and the use of herbs to fight off the T-Virus.

    Amazing post!!

  26. I don’t if you’ve covered Skyrim and games like that in when you look at drugs and alcohol. I mean, most of the stamina “potions” in that game are types of liquor and while they boost stamina for the moment, they also impair your stamina regeneration for a brief time. Not sure what this would do to your character if you sat around drinking Nordic Mead all day, but it’s food for thought. Especially given the high use of Alchemy skills to make potions and poisons of all types.

  27. Thanks for this post. It was only after reading this that it clicked for me what the ‘mushrooms’ in Mario actually are! You learn something new everyday I guess!

  28. Cmon how could you not mention GTA(San Andreas) a good percentage of the missions were drug related-steal the coke, deliver the cash, burn the pot before the helicopter shows up

  29. Strange how I never paid much attention to this until Far Cry 3 but there seems to be an increase on drugs in gaming lately.

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