By Dan Staines on: 24/07/10 12:41:19 PM

Zolpidem is the generic name for the popular and controversial sleeping pill known to most people by its US trade name, Ambien. It is very effective at what it does, but like a lot of effective medications, it can also cause a variety of fun side effects, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing personally. These include increased libido, loss of inhibition, and loss of short-term memory. In my case, the last of these is especially pronounced.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve been playing Persona 3 on PSP and enjoying it a lot. One of the things I especially like about it is that it’s a good bedtime game: you get under the covers, get warm, grind Tartarus for an hour or so, get tired, fall asleep. In fact, hat has been my regular pre-sleep ritual for the past few weeks, including the days where I’ve taken zolpidem to combat my annoying inability to sleep through the night.

You might think that a sleeping pill would hinder one’s ability to play games, but not so in this instance. Unless it involves standing up or being tactful, pretty much anything you can do while sober, you can do equally well under the influence of zolpidem. (This is assuming a standard 10mg dose. I’ve only ever taken more than that once, and I fell into the closet on the way to bed.)

I can play Persona 3 just fine on zolpidem. It's remembering what I’ve done when I come back to it that's the problem. You know how sometimes you’ll be playing an RPG, and for whatever reason you leave it alone for a week or two, and then you come back and realise you have no fucking idea what you were doing? Well, this is kind of like that, except much worse.

When you forget something, the information is seldom totally lost. In most cases it can be recalled, at least partially, with the assistance of a few appropriate prompts. The same is not true of information that doesn’t exist. If the memory of an event isn’t encoded somewhere in my brain, it doesn’t matter how hard I try to recall it – there’s nothing there to recall.

So this morning I was playing P3P on the bus, and Junpei asks me: “How did you do on your end of session exams?” And I’m like: “What the fuck are you talking about? What exams?” Then I looked at my save file, and it told me that I played the game for THREE HOURS before going to sleep last night. I beat a boss, completed my exams, made some new personas, raised my Academics skill, and went on a date with that nerdy girl from the student council. And I don’t remember any of it. It’s like someone has been playing the game in my absence.

Which kind of sucks, but oh well. At least I have multiple saves. And no more zolpidem.

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