Can You Play
Disco Elysium Well?
This research project explores the narrative, characters, mechanics, and gameplay of the 2019 role-playing game Disco Elysium, developed by ZA/UM. Disco Elysium presents players with numerous ethical dilemmas and a range of situations that cannot be resolved via combat, instead only through a variety of skill-based choices. The game also denies players the opportunity to 'be the hero' and save a city from annihilation, or even from the forces of politics, despair, and decay.
"The Dilemmas of a Disco Cop: Ethically Well Played Experiences in Disco Elysium," 2022. Mia Consalvo, E. Jules Maier-Zucchino, & Robert Marinov, In Well Played: A Journal on Videogames, Value and Meaning, Vol. 11, No. 1, Jose Zagal, Editor.
Our work offers a diversity of perspectives on how to approach the game, including attempts to be a virtuous player, and descents into dark play as well. Ultimately we argue that even a game stripped of all combat and skill in movement can generate feelings of both success and failure by presenting scenarios that challenge players to consider what is the best way out of - or through - a particular scenario. By that refusal to offer conventional markers of mastery and growth, players must determine their own definitions of the term.