Performance Enhancing Drugs and Gaming

Caffeine and nicotine aside, there were no drugs that provided an edge during board gaming. This is no longer true. Several drugs available provide quantifiable boosts to mental

A Gamer's Brain on Smart Drugs
A Gamer's Brain on Smart Drugs

performance or lower stress.  It is not a huge boost, but it is a boost and drove me to write this post. Right now, these drugs (Provigil, Inderal, Adderall) are prescription-only and used for ailments like hypertension, attention deficit Disorder and narcolepsy.  All have side-effects and risks, but for those willing to bear those risks there is an advantage.

These drugs do not really concern me because only a truly petty and pathetic human being stoops to drugs to win a board game. Playing a board game while you are on a smart drug taken every day as part of you lifestyle is an entirely different story.  A group of players sits down at a table to play. One is a stockbroker that uses smart drugs daily to increase memory and focus, the rest do not.  Smart drugs do not guarantee victory, but over the long-term the stockbroker is winning more than average.  Is this a viable game group anymore? Certainly most people play games for fun, but what if you are a golfer that only plays Tiger Woods ? You only win when Tiger has a bad day and you have a great day. Imagine Tiger’s skills in pill form, readily available and cheap. Is the game still fun? Would you continue playing with “boosted” players? Does the drug-using player have to “get clean” before game day or tested before a tournament?

These drugs may change the design of games themselves. Will extremely complex games appear to test the capabilities of chemically enhanced brains and superior memory?

This is not an academic question. These drugs will exist, probably in the next few years and definitely within our lifetimes.  I admit that focusing on the impact to gaming is a bit petty considering widespread use of smart drugs may change society as we know it. That said, I can only hope gaming survives the coming change and continues to thrive, even if the players use smart drugs.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.