The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 Hall-A - Dorothy
I am a “bartender” in the same way that I am a “journalist”. I have trained as both in some fairly shitty institutions and I’ll take whatever work I can get. I’m underpaid, tired and almost always tearfully drunk at 3am wondering what the fuck I’m doing.

VA-11 HALL-A is a romantic idea of what being a bartender is like. It is The Future. You’re a bit cyberpunk. Robots are there and want to talk to you while they suck down on booze. And I like that.

I’m not going to complain that it’s unrealistic because it’s just focusing on the better parts of the job, the scant few moments where you’re permitted a conversation with a patron rather than ensuring that the ice in the middle counter is topped up, the coffee machine is maintained and you’ve got enough 12oz glasses or dealing with the 6’o clock rush entirely by yourself. Fuck realism. You’ve got Cook Serve Delicious for that shit.

A new robot or human or robot-human shows up and they’ve got a problem only a stiff drink and someone financially obligated to listen to them can fix. The free playable prototype (which I’ve played) only has a few characters, while the longer Prologue (which I haven’t) is slightly more fleshed out in mechanics, cast and dogs, I hear.

These few customers are still an interesting sample of tone. Let this serve as somewhat of a Content Warning for the demo as much as it is a discussion of events: the first character you meet is a lifelike robot designed to appear as much like a child as possible. She is a sex worker. You continually make a choice in whether or not to serve her an alcoholic drink.

VA-11 Hall-A - SupervisorI wasn’t entirely fond of the concept. I was made uncomfortable being presented with it, which is probably a good thing. She’s given incredible agency. Her role doesn’t simply serve to layer the world around her. This is a conversation between two people where one is learning more about the other. The least that I can ask for when exploring a difficult concept is that it’s actually explored in a way that doesn’t feel like shock value. And now I’m going to go back to making jokes again. Pretend I’m making a Slide Whistle noise in this paragraph transition.

Depending on whether you fulfil drink requests correctly or just kinda wing it each character will have different things to tell you. One stormed off because I couldn’t quite figure out the best way to put together her complicated drink order (another misconception of bartending, here. it’s all written on a fuckin’ sheet round the back in plain language). One time the game suggested I put slightly more booze in an order for a Tough Gruff Hunk in order to get him to open up (again, what the fuck does this game think bartending is? Have they ever heard of the Weights and Measures Act 1985? Maybe they think it’s some kind of P90X rip off).

The initial demo is in Renpy but the finished version’s going to be in Gamemaker. You can download the demo and the prologue now via, with more coming when it’s ready.