Monday, March 27, 2023
The Intersection of Gaming and Cannabis Culture

Illustrations by Kristen Burgess

The Intersection of Gaming and Cannabis Culture

Cookies and milk; blackjack and hookers; drugs and gaming. These things go together so well that it often seems like they were designed together--or one was made to facilitate the other.  While this might not be the case for the former examples, the latter surely has a case to be made for a union conceived by gods and game designers. Whether it’s the deeply explored circle of a venn diagram explaining the overlap of video gaming culture and weed culture, the history of card games in smokey rooms, or what I find to be the necessary functions of weed in D&D, the marriage between these cultures is nigh on universal. 


Firstly, I should start by explaining what it is I mean by “gaming culture” and “weed culture.” Gaming culture is a set of--sometimes completely disparate--groups centered around an appreciation of games; this nearly non-definition might seem vague, but it is only as vague as the term “game” is. Games have been defined so widely and differently that Wittgenstein (a 20th century Austrian-British philosopher{The first person to discuss the nature of games}) came to the conclusion that term was essentially undefined. 


But this doesn’t necessarily hurt our exploration. Like the supreme court’s ruling on pornography, ‘I know it when I see it’, is an acceptable metric for something so broad. So sports, chess, and videogames are all clear examples despite not falling within one neat definition. Weed culture on the other hand is much easier to define: it is the collection of groups based on use and appreciation of cannabis.


Hot take here, video games and weed go together well. I mean this area is so well explored at this point that academic papers have been published on the subject, and there’s a whole page on wikipedia dedicated to it. Cannabis’ ability to make visuals more interesting and make audio more intense is why it's pairing with film and music is so well trodden; likewise, we find a media that mixes audio and video, video games, is similarly benefitted. On a more personal note it was the particular combination of weed and video games that kept me sane in highschool. Were it not for stress relief that brought me, I shudder to think where I might have ended up.


Where it might seem like a detriment in more difficult video games, that is where I have found the most personal benefit. I am a huge fan of the Souls-Borne series of games, which are famous, or infamous, for their steep learning curve and unforgiving play. Things that you would expect would make weed a terrible pairing, however I’ve found that the weed helps to keep me calm when I would otherwise get frustrated, and keeps me out of my own head. Few things are as enjoyable as feeling the controller and my thoughts melt away as the avatar and I become one.


Card games are pretty old, dating to Song dynasty China, from the 9th-12th centuries, as a happy byproduct of the invention of woodblock printing. For as long as cards have been played, people have been betting and drinking alongside them. That time honored tradition has continued well into the contemporary world, an example being casinos famed for being the last places on earth where smoking indoors is encouraged--not to mention the table side drink services. No doubt, upon the more widespread acceptance of marijuana it's likely that smoking cannabis, which undoubtedly happens surreptitiously on the gaming floor anyway, will happen more openly alongside these other vices. 


And sure, casinos do that with the hopes they'll make money on your gambling, but in more private settings the use of cannabis with these games is certainly widespread. I, for one, have never been to a Magic The Gathering game without simultaneously getting high as a kite. 


Although it might end up being a hindrance to strictly optimal play, I find it helps to keep things light; it prevents anyone from getting too competitive or serious. 


Where I find weed to be most essential in my gaming life, however, is when playing D&D. I don’t play other tabletop role playing games, so I can’t speak to them, but generally roleplaying is at least present in all of them. Roleplaying can be incredibly uncomfortable to everyone, --butexcept maybe theater kids and super nerds--, and I find pot to be indispensable in allowing me to get into character. Not to mention, I’m the Dungeon Master (DM), meaning I have to; A, play a lot of NPCs (non-player characters); B, sensually improvise scenery and battles; and C, create an engaging and multifaceted world for my players to explore. Marijuana greatly facilitates all of these endeavors. 

Improvisation is hard, even a sticking point for new DM’s, but jazz-grass helps me visualize and be more confident in my descriptions. I would not be able to come up with an eighth of the ideas I do for magical items, or story beats, if it wasn’t for the creative help hoobastank gives me. Finally there’s the DM sweats. It is a uniquely anxiety inducing task to build and describe a world plus characters, while trying to usher players through it without being too straightforward. DM sweats are real, and I get them everytime. Bud keeps me relatively calm and loose through the process, mitigating my stress and flop sweat; thereby allowing me to enjoy the session as much as my players hopefully do.


As personal as one’e experience with weed or games is, we do see trends. The intersection between the incredibly vast world of games and cannabis is plain to see. From Michael Phelps in the world of sports, Baron Flynt from the excellent video game Borderlands, to the pipe weed of halflings; the connections between these groups is innumerable. Correlation does not imply causation, and I can only speak to my own experience; for me games and weed just bring out the best in each other, like rice and beans, so why wouldn’t you have them together?