Disco Elysium: The Human Condition

video games Mar 29, 2020

On Saturday, February 22nd of 2020, I finished playing Disco Elysium and openly wept.

Before you continue reading, please play this song for maximum effect:

This is one of my favorite ever pieces of music.

This game is a monumental accomplishment., that holds a special place in many a gamer’s hearts, but I felt compelled to share why this resonated with me deeply.

Earlier this year, I celebrated my 30th birthday and I never thought I’d ever see it. Last year, Murphy's Law decided to have its way with me and it ripped almost everything I had from me...

I managed to eke my way out of that into teaching English in Tokyo, and when I was financially stable enough, I clicked on the checkout button on Steam gleefully. Thank NVIDIA for GeForce Now, or my wait to play would have been longer (I had to sell my gaming desktop, and my ex took off with my belongings including my PS4).

Like Harry DuBois’s journey: mental health recovery is not a linear process. Sometimes, it is not even about healing…but trying to make sense of a few things and accepting that other things will never make sense. This will sometimes take you to places that you never expected to.

I do wonder, how did the developers do it? What drove the team to capture so much about the human condition so eloquently?

The hardship, the weight of heritage, the honesty and deception/delusion, love and heartbreak, the banal and absurd.

I felt as though I was a flâner through it all, and I learned so much more about the world, and myself. With so much French influence, I could shoot off even more words that relate to the experience: tohu-bohu, jolie laide. But I’ll add some Japanese words to the list too:

  • 幽玄 (yugen) - A profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe…and the sad beauty of human suffering;
  • 物の哀れ (mono no aware) - The bittersweetness of a brief and grading moment of transcendent beauty;
  • 侘び寂び (wabi-sabi) - Finding beauty within the imperfections of life and peacefully accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay and;
  • 金繕い (kintsukuroi)- The art of repairing pottery with gold or silver joining the pieces and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

I do wonder what something like this would be with South American, East Asian or African influence.

ZA/UM have made something truly remarkable. I am curious to see what other stories they will tell.


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