Monday, 19 January 2009

Humour in games

Sophisticated humour in video games is lacking, I have decided.

Many games involve slapstick humour or simple, incidental jokes, but games which are clever and witty are in short supply. Some Japanese games feature absurdist humour, though it rarely translates well. There are a choice few games which make an art of being funny. 'Portal', obviously, the 'Monkey Island' games, 'Grim Fandango'. Many funny games were in the old 'Adventure' game genre, which has been pretty much dead for five years now.
It's rather odd that Britain produces huge amounts of comic films and tv shows, yet dismally few comic games.
I'm not talking a silly, clownish game for kids here. Portal proves that you can have sophisticated, dark, character an dialogue based humour in a game, and it can go down very well. So many funny webcomics are based on gaming humour, so gamers clearly are not without a funnybone.
I remember being a little cheesed off with 'Final Fantasy X' for a simple reason, Yuna says, more than once, 'I want my journey to be full of laughter'. But the cast only ever laugh together once in the entire game! For goodness' sake! I know you're on an important mission, but a bunch of teen-twenty-somethings on a rollicking adventure around the world...well, wouldn't they have a bit more fun!? I guess it could be a translation thing, since the Japanese for 'laugh' and 'smile' are interchangable, so she could actually have meant 'I want my journey to be full of smiles'. Still, RPG games, with their ensemble casts really seem wasted on unfunny writers. You can do so much with an ensemble cast!

I want to entertain my players, just as I want to entertain my comic readers. I want to make them laugh and I want them to really empathise with the characters. Humour and empathy, I find, go hand-in-hand. It's the reason Gromit from 'Wallace and Gromit' doesn't need to speak to be funny. His expressions and the viewer's empathy do all the work.

Well, I think I just found my first piece of the puzzle! Something absolutely central to my design philosophy as a Game Designer: Humour and Empathy.

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