The game is full of great comedy classics, but the genre has all but disappeared in modern times. Here’s why it should be making a comeback.
Comedy is one of the most important genres in all media. Although its specifics take different forms from culture to culture, it is essentially a way to help people laugh at the nonsense of life by finding humor in the conventions of all. days or by ridiculing the tropes the public has become accustomed to. With so many different video games emerging in just a few decades, comedy titles have a surprising amount to work with.
Yet despite the abundance of potentially great material, comedy games aren’t that mainstream anymore. The 90s were a golden age for the genre, thanks to adventure games like The secret of monkey island and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but there were many other suitors. Rare’s mascot rigs were all steeped in satire to varying degrees, and even RPGs like Final fantasy dipped their toes into comedic waters with lighter games like V and IX. Such titles, however, are rare in modern gaming and increasingly noticeable by their absence.
None of this is to say that modern games can’t be funny. No more heroes has a lot of wacky villains and cartoonish moments, and the Tales the games have no shortage of skits that show the more awkward aspects of their heroes. However, it’s hard to call any of them “comedies” simply because they are sometimes aware of the tropes they are using. Their jokes are a nice touch, not their purpose. On the other hand, it is difficult to talk about people like Conker’s Bad Fur Day not to mention his various parodies and iconoclastic gags.
Part of the problem could be that the comedy is incredibly subjective. In addition to the fact that each person has their own sense of humor, jokes often struggle against cross-cultural boundaries. Each region has its own acceptable and unacceptable targets, which may require rewriting to avoid offending audiences, and the effectiveness of puns and puns is often limited by language. That said, sharing a native language doesn’t guarantee that a joke will pass off perfectly. The UK and US both speak English, but their archetypal comic book heroes are as different as night and day.
When you consider this in combination with the rising costs of game development, it makes sense that many studios are skeptical about such games. Supporting this fear is the sad reality that these titles don’t always succeed. Psychonauts is a cult classic for its abundance of clever dialogue, but it’s also infamous for being a business failure. While the likes of row of saints, undoubtedly a whole franchise of black comedies, do exist, they are the exception that proves the rule.
It is therefore not surprising that comedy games are more common on the independent scene. Subtitle, of course, stands out for its cartoonish characters, the hilarious dates one can take on with them, and its constant subversion of RPG mechanics, but it’s by no means the only one. Stanley’s parable uses the conventions of walking simulators to good effect, mocking and playing with tropes in its genre and choice-driven narratives as a whole. However, for all of their smart mechanics, what really sells their humor is their sharp writing.
Being smaller projects, indie games aren’t as beholden to the executive mandates and focus testing of their larger counterparts. This makes it easier for them to stick to a singular vision and to better communicate the message of their creator. Such messages are often essential parts of good comedies, because while they can easily be humor to itself, truly excellent works often speak of a deeper truth and use their jokes to solve its problems. . On the other hand, simple parodies and references are easier to AAA titles than a real biting satire.
Yet, with all the advancements games have made over the past few decades, perhaps it’s time for comedy to once again become one of the media’s biggest players. While point-and-click adventures of yore had to rely on precise scripting to complement their straightforward gameplay, we now live in an age where great writing can be had. and engaging mechanics. After so many years of developing tropes, controls, and systems, it’s shocking that the big studios haven’t found more to laugh about. Hoping that they will see the fun side in the future.
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