Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
It's All In Good Humor

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 28 Aug 2012 12:00
Extra Punctuation - RSS 2.0

This wasn't always the case. Overtly comedic games used to be common. Common enough that you would never see a game like Book of Unwritten Tales that seems to be so proud of itself for figuring out that comedy is a thing, to the point that it doesn't need to come up with an original plot or characters that aren't mere embodiments of tropes and references. Whereas back in the day you'd have games like Monkey Island, Earthworm Jim or Armed and Dangerous that had plot and characters of their own as well as being comedy games.

But these days if there's comedy to be found in triple-A releases it's usually either lowest common denominator garbage like the aforesaid DNF or the increasingly tiresome 'ironically over-the-top' approach to be found in games like Bayonetta and Suda51's more recent titles like Lollipop Chainsaw. I suppose what I'm asking for is a bit of wit, and all of this sort of thing is pretty deliberately witless.

Yes, there's Team Fortress 2, and the latter Saint's Row games, which are indeed funny, but they're not exactly subtle, are they. I can only think of one example of an overtly, consistently comedic game in the current generation that actually relies on wit to be funny, rather than over-the-top action and performances, and that's the Portal series. And two shorter-than-average games is not good representation, people.

Specifically, what I personally think the world sorely lacks at present is a fully comedic role-playing game in the Bioware style, with a sit-commy approach to the writing along the lines of, say, Blackadder. I can't remember the last time I played a dialogue-heavy triple-A game in which I didn't start skim-reading the subtitles and skipping past the line deliveries. Because dialogue only seems to exist as dry exposition for the plot and characters and there's no time to have funny asides or clash two opposing personalities together or anything else that might make people want to listen to it.

No, everything is all so violent and realistic in triple-A games these days and the plots all have to deal with ridiculously heavy, wide-reaching issues like saving the entire human race from killer monsters, so protagonists are all incredibly serious, angsty, morally questionable assholes who I imagine would be incredibly boring company if you invited them over to hang out and watch a film. They'd spend the whole time intensely grilling you about every single conversation piece in your living room while refusing to break eye contact. Could you possibly imagine Commander Shepard sitting around the Christmas dinner table, wearing a paper crown and reading his cracker joke aloud? Not in official continuity you couldn't. Not unless you called it a sidequest and gave him 5000 credits and some Medi-Gel as a reward.

Maybe this has been on my mind because at time of writing I'm trying to get through Darksiders 2, and it often occurs to me that if there was a single character in that universe who knew how to not take things so bloody seriously all the time then they would instantly become the most memorable character in the game. Maybe a guy who releases all that angry tension by asking Death to speak up 'cos it's difficult to hear him when he keeps growling through that mask he's got on.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

Comments on