Who do you play as in Drinking With God?
It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer, for such a character-driven game. In a Mario game you play as Mario. In a Sonic game you play as Sonic. In some games, the perspective switches, so when you ask the “who do you play as question” you get back a list of two, five, or twenty characters instead of one. But the answer is usually nonetheless fairly straightforward.
But what about adventure games? (And if there’s an existing genre out that that Bleating Sheep Theater falls into, adventure is it.) Who do you play as in an adventure game?
In the Monkey Island series, you play as Guybrush Threepwood, right? Well, usually. What about the times when you pick a dialogue choice, and he chooses not to respond with your selection, but instead to say something more prudent to his situation? Sure, those deviations from the ordinary behavior of the game mechanics exist primarily as an opportunity for humor, but once players have lost agency to that extent, can they really still be said to be in control of that character?
Adventures are replete with such examples. “I can’t use these things together.” “I don’t want to go that way.” “Uhm… no.” Manny Calavera, Sam and Max, April Ryan… these characters all have minds of their own. You’re not controlling them. At best, you’re at one remove, a sort of personal spirit, hovering nearby, able to influence their minds, but not to control them outright.
Does that mean, then, that in adventure games you pretty much always play as God? Or may not capital-G God, of whom our society tends to conceive as being all-powerful, but a god, at least?
Where, then, does that leave Drinking With God? You’re certainly not playing as God — any god — in that game. God Himself is hovering there right next to you.
And you’re not playing as Violet, either — the game doesn’t offer you enough agency for that. True, she never flies in the face of a dialogue choice you’ve made, as Guybrush Threepwood was sometimes prone to do — but I’d be surprised if there’s anyone who’s played the game and not wanted to make at least one dialogue choice that wasn’t available on the menu.
Besides, you’re not always making choices for Violet; sometimes, in the introductory sequences, you’re making choices on behalf of the “audience,” whoever they are. Does that mean that you’re playing as yourself?
It comes to a lot of questions. Ready for the answer? Here it comes:
Durned if I know.
What, you were expecting me to provide a coherent, conclusive resolution to all of this? If you’re expecting coherent conclusions from me, you clearly you haven’t played the game, yet.