The reasons for video games featuring made-up drugs, rather than real ones, may not be entirely noble—avoid any need for any scientific accuracy; dodge any accusations of “promoting” real drugs; demonize drug users with impunity because it’s all just imagination-land—but they also allow for some fantastical and entertaining effects. Here are five of the best:
In the underwater city of Rapture, these gene-enhancing substances give users superpowers like Telekenisis and the ability to launch fire from one’s fingertips. But it has also turned the residents of Rapture into wild “addicts,” who attack each other—and you—on sight. (Sorry Bioshock, but making up the drug doesn’t excuse you for stigmatizing drug users.) The player must wield the power of plasmids to defeat crazy industrialist and Rapture founder Andrew Ryan.
2. Jet—Fallout 3 and Fallout 4
This drug—or “Chem,” as drugs are known in the Fallout universe—slows down time, allowing the user to benefit from relatively quicker reflexes. It also may help certain characters predict the future. But be careful! Over-use well get you addicted, making gameplay very difficult (gamers might do well to take that as a parable for over-use of Fallout.) Chems are a major part of Fallout lore and their sometimes-problematic use helps give the game a feel for the desperation of war.
3. Citra’s Hallucinogen—Far Cry 3
This unnamed drug is given to you by sexy jungle tyrant Citra, causing you to hallucinate giant demons— which you will nevertheless have to subsequently shoot with actual flaming arrows. The Far Cry series is well known for its colorful hallucination sequences, but those induced by Citra’s drug from the third installment are the most bizarre and memorable.
4. Spank—Grand Theft Auto 3
This drug may seem like a digital imitation of speed, coke, or PCP—until it causes the player to be rushed by “addicts” (again, casually associated with irrational violence), who insist on blowing themselves up by the dozens during the final level of the game.
5. Vlkyr—Max Payne
This designer drug which hit the streets of Max Payne‘s New York cases users to become violent, aggressive and suicidal—so, a bit like real-life Novel Psychoactive Substances are falsely presented to be. A conspiracy involving Valkyr gangsters and the death of Max’s wife and children form the back story of this film noir-inspired game.