Pour out a tall and foamy one. Oooh, that’s saucy. The last year or so has left the majority of us a little thirsty for a pint down the pub, hasn’t it?
Well… not me. I admittedly didn’t care much for pubs before This Whole Wacky Pandemic, and I don’t expect my opinion to change after over 12 months of concentrated FOMO and the constant nagging from the British government to go and have a drink whenever they deign to open the pubs because apparently the economy is all my fault now.
Adventure game pubs though? Love ’em! Like pockets and plenty more besides, adventure game pubs are a home from home, packed with plentiful punters and plenty else to pick up, purchase and purloin besides. Who’s up for a cheeky bar crawl?
Games and pubs are hardly strangers, from the RPGs you gather up your party to venture forth in, to the soon-to-be-wrecked saloons of looter-shooters you’ll pepper with gunshots and ransack with abandon.
Adventure games do it differently though, and that’s why we love them. This is a genre that’s all about places to go and people to meet, and that makes bars and pubs a perfect translation from reality to pixelated presentation. Conversations, contemplations and, of course, carrying as much out of the venue as your plentiful pockets will permit you are a wonderful thing indeed.
How pubs are presented varies by the game, of course, and your protagonist. Adventure game heroes beneath the legal age to serve will usually have a hard time getting any booze, while more grizzled protagonists will find the bars before them smoky dens of moody exposition and hard-drinking cynics.
One thing you can always count on in adventure game bars — more even than a sip of the good stuff — is information. It could be exposition, a whispered clue here, a wayward remark there, but these are valuable places in which the right kinds of people always happen to be in attendance just when meeting them and striking up a conversation would come in handy.
Talk about serendipitous! Yet don’t count on everyone you meet in an adventure game pub being loose-lipped. Some require a little coaxing with a flagon or two of Dutch courage, some are hiding secrets not even the strongest liquors can entice into the open, and a fair few are just background characters who are trying to have a quiet drink in peace.
Of course, in the rarest and most ingenious instances, it’s your protagonist who needs a few bellyfuls of lager to get talking…
We may well be getting ahead of ourselves, of course. As anyone with an adventure game or two completed will tell you, the harder something is to get in an adventure game, the more handy or critical to your objective it’s going to be.
As such, you can expect that just getting into the bleedin’ bar is a task and a half unto itself. It might be that the venue is a secret, that the doorman outside just isn’t inclined to let you step inside, or that there’s a whole other part of the pub’s interior that’s off-limits, yet tantalisingly rich with the clues and objects you seek.
In the real world, we have a somewhat narrow-minded view of what alcohol can be used for. Mostly it’s about the general facial insertion thereof and the pursuit of the giddy oblivion of inebriation — but in many adventure games, you can count drunkenness as just one of countless advantages a good pint or two can offer.
For instance, alcohol makes for wonderful bribery material. As aforementioned, you can get the wheels of conversation moving smoothly with a little libation and lubrication — and loose lips inspire clicks!
Yet open your mind, and some remarkable advantages arise from alcohol. Need to get rid of some pesky jail bars? Gather some handy pewter mugs to strategically convey some highly corrosive grog across town.
Need to chat up the security lady at the airship terminal to schmooze your way to a metal detector? Down some liquor flecked with pure golden flakes, and don’t let pesky things like a lack of lips or internal digestive tract stop you either.
In the real world, we cruise through adventure game pubs, gleaning the information we need, scooping up the objects we’re after (often with a touch of subterfuge and misdirection), and on we go. These pubs are places of information and exchange, and seldom will we sit and nurse a pint while ruminating on what to do next.
We’re fly-by-night wayfarers, gathering the goods we need to save the world — not the pixelated patrons who prop up the bar with their whiskey and worries. And as much as we love that games are this way, in some ways it’s a touch sad.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful for an adventure game to be set in a pub — Coffee Talk or Va11-Hall-A style — where we piece together what’s what each night as the punters come and go, and then sneak out in the daylight before our shift to put the intel and items we gained to use for the greater good?
Whatever your favourite adventure game may be, we hope you’ll join us in raising a glass to the corners of the world that make them so brilliant.
From sordid saloons and dirty dives to highbrow cocktail bars and the good old village local, no adventure game is complete without a pub to go and make a cheerful nuisance of ourselves in while saving the world.
Now, who’s for grog?