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This is Captain Gamer, superhero and columnist. On the side, he works at a five star restaurant called the Pixel Palace, substituting for the regular bartender Dominic when needed. There, Captain can meet his old video game friends when they come in to have a drink. Sometimes, they share stories and even secrets. For as we all know, what the bartender hears is confidential... isn't it?


So I'm sitting there tending bar when in walks of my favorite guilty pleasures as far as patrons go: Duke Nukem. I know it's the popular thing to hate on him now, especially with his latest adventures. And I will admit, there are some rough edges about him and I don't blame people for being turned away. But I guess I come from a time when rough edges were the norm, so I'm a bit more patient than that. It might not be the most high-brow, but we have our fun.

We have this thing where I have my back to him, he walks in and says "beer me," and I immediately turn around and toss him one of his signature beers. It's worth it to see the reactions of the other patrons who've never seen it before and weren't expecting it.

I've got the beer and I'm waiting for the "beer me." And I'm waiting. And I'm waiting. I hear him sit down and turn around to see him browsing the drink selection. I get that he doesn't say anything because I'm looking busy, but that was because of the "beer me." We had a thing! And it was fairly consistent. That was my clue that something was different.

Eventually he sees me looking back and he says, "Looking classy."

Now I'm even more in surprise. Duke Nukem complimenting someone else? Who isn't a promiscuous woman? Just to say something, I say back, "It's what I'm always wearing on the job." So there's the second sign.

Lastly, I remember hearing from Dominic that Duke was lately involved in some lucrative business, suit and all. Here he's back in his regular attire. At least he'll have one of his atomic brews, right? One of those beers he chugs down in Forever that would kill ten of me but just leaves him a little buzzed? No! He puts down the sheet and orders a dark lager! I mean, I get him a mug of draft and everything's fine. But only fine! Usually he's turned the place upside down by now. He even thanks me for serving up his order. I'm driven more crazy by this normalcy than I ever had by his hedonism.

So after a few moments I think to myself, alright, something's different, if not wrong. Me, I'm always trying to be tactful, so I ease in and I ask, "How's business, Duke?"

Duke puts his beer down and says, "I'm just a shareholder now. I've gone Zen, baby."

I say back, "Zen?" This is quickly becoming the most unpredictable conversation I've had to date and we've barely said a few words to each other. So I ask him, "As in mindfulness and inner peace Zen?"

"That's the one," he tells me.

And I say right back, "Well don't keep me in suspense! What's this all about?"

After I give him his moment, he says, "There's a reason why I was the way I was. Smoking, drinking, killing alien bastards, chasing tail, and just indulging in every vice like my life depended on it."

I ask him, "And what reason is that?"

He says back, "My life depended on it."

Took me a few moments. One question answered, another begged. As vocalized by me saying, "Oh... what?"

So Duke goes on, he says, "You think me having an 'Ego bar' instead of a health bar was just a clever gimmick? It's not. I have a medical condition where my body's strength depends on how satisfied I am with myself. Something about chemicals in the brain. Don't know if I've always had it or I developed it over the years. But whenever I feel like the greatest thing to happen to the world, you can't kill me with a tank. But if I'm doubting myself, I can barely lift a fork. I have to be all that is man just to stay alive."

I say, "Well, that shouldn't be a problem for you, right? Realistically speaking."

He says, "Keeping my ego up wasn't a problem. But I'm not proud of what I've had to do to keep it up. To give you a better idea of how hard it is, I can't even get sad. A basic human emotion! And I can't feel it because it'll kill me otherwise."

Despite what he was saying, he definitely looked to be getting sad right there. He just looked straight in his drink. I couldn't help but say, "Duke?"

And he's off in his own world, he says, "I once saw my girlfriends impregnated by aliens. And I knew they were about to die giving birth. And I knew I couldn't do anything about it. I cared for them... about as much as I could have back then. I never felt so helpless. So what do I do? ... I say a one-liner. I made fun of them. Just so I wouldn't break down and die right there. I wasn't much better when I thought my best friend died. At least I waited until he was out to say something."

This is pretty heavy stuff! I've played that moment in Duke Nukem Forever, and I thought Duke was a huge heel for just playing off those deaths. But this confession, it basically changes everything. I saw Duke was still staring into his mug, so I get his attention, I say "Hey now, you were just doing what you had to do. You didn't know better. Nobody does anything perfectly if they don't have all the information. What matters now is you know what it meant. And it sounds like you know better now!"

He nods and he says, "I do know better. But I didn't know what to do with it. One time I contemplated mankind's cosmic purpose. Next thing I know I'm waking up in a hospital bed with the nurses desperately rubbing up on me. And they were only doing that because the defibrillator wasn't working and my body was only responding to ego stimulation. I had a goddamn IV of beer. And it was working."

At a loss, I just say, "Wow. You really got to step back and look at yourself, didn't you?"

He says, "Yeah. That's when they told me everything about how my body works. I didn't know what to do. I already tried partying and killing things that deserved it. And I'm not being funny. That really is what I was thinking at the time."

I'm not about to do any calling out. First, because it's Duke Nukem. He's punched people out for less. Second, he sounds like he's really laying it all out right here. I won't disrespect that. So instead I ask, "How'd you arrive at Zen, of all things?"

It's a bit of a story so I'll sum it up: The whole thing completely baffles Duke's doctor, so he takes a stab in the dark and sees a counselor. Amazing listener, by the way. The counselor tells Duke that what he defines as "ego" could be something else entirely. Self-realization, fulfillment. So he refers Duke to a book about Zen meditation and Buddhist teachings. He liked it so much he started attending informational sessions to learn more.

"It's different." He tells me, "Practicing suffering injustice alone helped me atone for all the times I wrote someone off with a one-liner. So I thought if one of these religions could help me out, what could I learn from the others? So I just looked around. Made a religious mutt of myself. A lot of good stuff out there. Loving yourself instead of your possessions, passing along your good fortune to others... Wish I knew about this sooner."

Going along with it, I concur, I say, "Yeah, religious teachings often do have the best humanist intentions in mind. It just depends on where you get it from."

He says back, "You said it. But I ain't touching that. All I know is I used to believe that all I needed to do was focus on making myself feel awesome. But when I'm doing good for others just for the hell of it, that's when I feel the most awesome."

"Well said!" I tell him, "And that explains the 'looking classy' business from when you came in."

And Duke, still himself as ever, says, "Damn right," finishes his beer and shows me something.

He has a health indicator on his wrist, not unlike from his latest game. Underneath, instead of "ego," it reads "fulfillment." To which I respond, "Nice." And then he excuses himself. Turns out he was stopping in for a drink before heading out to a signing of his new book, "Why I'm So Great and You Can Be Too." After that he's flying out to give aide to the less fortunate.

Before he leaves, he turns back around and says, "Hail to the Captain, baby." I have to admit, it gave me a bit of flush to hear that out of Duke Nukem.

No sooner, I hear out of nowhere his fanfare for an ego boost. And I say, "Did saying that boost your fulfillment?"

He just smirked back and says, "That's my text tone. But I wouldn't be surprised."

I should make that my text tone.


You see a lot of strange things as a bartender. You see a lot of strange things at the Pixel Palace. So, I see a lot of strange things as a bartender at the Pixel Palace. It's changed my definition of the word "strange." And that's no lie. Swear to it.
Video Game Confessions featuring Captain Gamer: Duke Nukem

Based off of Doug Walker's "Video Game Confessions" series at That Guy with the Glasses.…

A series in which I take my own crack at the Video Game Confessions formula with Captain Gamer as the bartender. My style gives video game characters more relatable issues with generally positive outcomes. However, don't count out the occasional zany and tongue-in-cheek moments that the original is known for!

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May 29, 2014
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