Extra Credits: Comedic Games

Comedy relies on timing, but video games can go beyond the scripted scenes of films or television to create interactive "comedy by choice" that lets each player discover humor on their own.

Episode video is on YouTube

Show Notes:

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Recent Comments:

  • I'm just going to point out that clearly many- perhaps most- people disagree with disagree with the sentiment expressed in this thread regarding Goat Simulator. Obviously there are many people on these forums that didn't find it funny, but on a wider level it's been a definite success. I didn't buy it because they priced me out at $10, but the developers haven't deceived anyone about the nature of the game and I think their financial success speaks for itself.

    There is evidently a demand for such games and people do find them funny, even if you subjectively do not. I think the backlash toward it is entirely misplaced, and no amount of personal claims that Goat Simulator has failed to be funny are going to change the facts that the game is a success.

  • I think that asking games to have "funny" mechanics is like asking movies to have "funny" cinematography, or books to have "funny" type face. Sure these things can be silly - wonky camerawork, comic sans font, goats in jet packs - but I don't think they can be "funny". In all of these mediums, humor is the result of narrative and context, not the mediums properties.

    Why we seem (to me at least) not to have as many humor focused games as we did in the past - is another question.


    There IS funny cinematography, though. You'll notice that in a lot of comedy films or shows, the depth of the shots is much more flat than in a dramatic film, and the shots are framed to maximize the humor of the action or dialog being filmed. The camera isn't DOING something silly, but it's working to enhance the humor being performed. Same goes for the sound, the lighting, the editing... EVERYTHING.

    There's a visual language to comedy that proper use of the medium can reinforce. It's the same for whatever medium you work in: using that medium's tools properly will get you the most effective result.

  • I will definitely profess ignorance when it comes to directing comedy movies :) I will also admit that, as a layman, I haven't consciously noticed the differences you mentioned between comedic movies and dramatic ones.

    I have heard (and noticed after heard) though, that soup-operas have very particular conventions for the things that you've mentioned (how shots are taken, types of accompanying music and so on). But my question is, are those cinematic techniques inherently melodramatic, or are we so use to seeing them accompany melodrama that we instantly associate them with it?

    In other words:

    Lets say that we were posting in this thread during the hay day of Lucas Arts' comedic point and clicks'. Day of the Tentacle had just released and all the internets were abuzz. Someone were to then claim that "point and click" is an inherently "funny" game mechanic. What would you say to him?

    I hope I conveyed the destinction clearly enough /scratches head

  • I will definitely profess ignorance when it comes to directing comedy movies :) I will also admit that, as a layman, I haven't consciously noticed the differences you mentioned between comedic movies and dramatic ones.

    I have heard (and noticed after heard) though, that soup-operas have very particular conventions for the things that you've mentioned (how shots are taken, types of accompanying music and so on). But my question is, are those cinematic techniques inherently melodramatic, or are we so use to seeing them accompany melodrama that we instantly associate them with it?

    In other words:

    Lets say that we were posting in this thread during the hay day of Lucas Arts' comedic point and clicks'. Day of the Tentacle had just released and all the internets were abuzz. Someone were to then claim that "point and click" is an inherently "funny" game mechanic. What would you say to him?

    I hope I conveyed the destinction clearly enough /scratches head


    No, I follow you. And there's definitely some room to question which techniques are "inherently better for comedy" vs "associated with funny things through repeated exposure". I wouldn't say that point and click is inherently funny as a mechanic, though it can provide a lot of space and opportunities for humor, and it has been used to make many funny games (and some more dramatic, serious ones as well).

    It's not all learned association, though. There's a language to every media, a suite of tools that can be used to communicate different things.There's always a reason behind the chosen angle and framing of every shot in a film, behind the precise timing of every cut, behind the way the actors are lit, behind the tone and composition of the score... because each of those choices alters how the viewer perceives the action and what information is communicated, fundamentally changing the audience experience. Part of it is about using learned cultural cues, but a bigger part of it is understanding what impact certain choices subconsciously have on the viewer and doing everything possible to reinforce the intended effect of your creation, using every single tool available to you.

  • Hope you don't mind me butting in like this question was addressed to a wider audience, but...

    Lets say that we were posting in this thread during the hay day of Lucas Arts' comedic point and clicks'. Day of the Tentacle had just released and all the internets were abuzz. Someone were to then claim that "point and click" is an inherently "funny" game mechanic. What would you say to him?

    As the video itself mentioned, comedy of the linear narrative variety is inherently a lot easier to pull off.

    If you get right down to it, point-and-click adventure games were really never that much more than a "Visual Novel" that happened to have some inventory puzzles instead of nothing but multiple choice. P&C games were always pretty strictly linear affairs, and like a Visual Novel, could be written start-to-finish like it was a book or a movie. That meant you could throw in

    Also, like a book or movie, it was really hard (barring some Sixth-Sense-Style extremely obscure foreshadowing) to make a P&C game that could be played more than once. When you know that the way to get the keys to the jail cell is to use the coat hangar on the balloon, then weasel on the balloon, then balloon on the hook with the keys on it, then you'll basically never forget it, and the sole challenge of the game is gone.

    Compare this to a game like God of War - if they tried to make a "funny" kill against a harpy or something (presuming you're not the sort of person who already found ripping the wings off of people-birds funny) then it would get really, really, really tired by the time you'd done it to your 8,000th victim. Consider the complaints about "funny one liners" that get repeated constantly in an FPS game. Listening to Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation review several types of games, I know he deliberately avoids the kill cutscenes that players are supposed to be "enjoying" just because they are so long, tedious, and take player control away. (Ride to Hell: Retribution comes to mind first.)

    So, yes, I'd say that the more linear your game is, the more easily you could make it funny from a narrative standpoint. The intentional comedy in a game like Skyrim comes from its cutscenes or its books. The unintentional comedy comes from its simulation, and becomes just something to avoid or exploit, not to laugh at as you get used to it. (Or, in the case of Dwarf Fortress, something to one-up everyone else's ridiculous exploit. "I see your whale farm, and raise you a babyfall!")

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