My First Drinking Buddy was a Video Game Character
In May 2012, the third installment of the Max Payne series was released almost ten years after its previous installment.
Also, in May 2012, I was drinking a lot. Too much, actually.
In the first few minutes of the game, it's established that Max -- the titular character -- is a heavy drinker. He's drinking to forget, to deal with his demons, there's a long history there that doesn't really need to be explained. All that needs to be understood is that he was in a bad way.
And me? I identified with this. I don't know why but I liked it. It was an awful kind of feeling, feeling like I'm finally represented in a video game. While I played the game, I drank. I'd buy a couple of six-packs or a bottle of cheap whisky and drink while I fake-shot bad guys and fake-ran around fake-Brazil.
Every night for almost two weeks, Max and I drank together, shot together, laughed together, and shared our demons. His, in all honesty, were a lot worse than mine but he didn't care. He needed a drinking buddy, the same way I did.
See, Max would tell me stories about the family he once had. He'd tell me how beautiful Michelle was when he'd wake up in the morning and how he was both upset and glad every time he had to cradle Rose back to sleep in middle of the night. We'd clink glasses then fake-shoot "bad guys" again. "I'm going to help you through this", I'd say to my television, to my friend, to Max.
And I'd tell him all about my life. How it was slowly going down the drain, how I wasn't performing in school, how I stopped caring, how my relationship started to fail, and how I started to feel stuck and broken and the only way out was through the bottle. He understood. He'd extend his glass across the fake-New Jersey bar we both fake-sat in and he'd fake-cheers me. "To despair" he'd fake-say.
We spent a lot of nights like this but it was around the seventh or eighth night where everything had changed. Something happened within Max's fake-world that made him want to change. He had found a purpose (even though it was an extremely violent purpose, it was still more than I had) and he shaved his head, poured all his booze down the drain, and put on a weird flowery shirt.
And, me, I sat there stunned. Beer in my hand. Then in my mouth. Then back in my hand. Then I finally put the controller down.
I didn't know what was happening. I had thought that Max and I had an agreement. An agreement that said, "yes, we are drinking buddies for life, man". But we didn't and in my drunken, stupid, state, I realized that. I realized that this whole thing was fake and I had my own problems that I needed to deal with.
Max was never real. Our conversations were never real. My drinking problem was the only thing that was real. My problems were the real problems and I didn't want to face them at the time. I was using a video game as a crutch to drink. I made excuses and ostracized myself from my family and friends.
So, after a few more minutes. I put the beer down. I turned my television off and I walked outside, to face everything on my own.