Power of Laughter

Power of Laughter
My Friends are Funnier Than Your Writers

John Evans | 29 Apr 2008 12:07
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The original Team Fortress provided many laughs in this way. To be shot while taking a sniper position is disappointing. To hear another player on the LAN exhort you to turn around and look behind you, only to find the entire opposing team with weapons drawn, just waiting for you to notice them, is high comedy. Another way spectacular failure brings about comedy is by exposing the limits or quirks of the game engine. Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now is a combat racing game that features both power-ups and negative item drops that hinder you. Certain combinations of these resulted in car behaviors so far from normal gameplay that they could not help but bring a smile. I discovered the hard way that picking up both the Indestructibility and Bouncy-Bouncy buffs just before racing into an underground tunnel network was a bad idea. A few turns in, another player knocked me down a mineshaft. For the entire duration of the indestructibility power up, my car careened off of the walls, floor and ceiling at ever-increasing speed. On top of that, the game had a crumple modeling system that deformed the car on impact to simulate crash damage, though it clearly wasn't intended to routinely handle the sort of punishment I was taking. The other players on the LAN left their seats to watch my monitor in wonder as, impact by impact, accompanied by pinball-like sound effects, a high end sports car was reduced to a sea-urchin made of jagged steel. When the ruined mass finally came to a rest, there was a moment of hushed silence, followed by a round of gleeful applause. We would have never witnessed the transformation of a car into art nouveau in the course of normal play, but by figuratively catching a baseball with my face we were all rewarded with a good laugh and a story that has lasted for years.

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The foibles and limitations that appear in increasingly complex game engines are certainly amusing to encounter. Yet once discovered, they also gave us the opportunity to be deliberately funny. Rocket jumping, now a well-established tactic among FPS players, was first discovered by accident. Several LAN parties I attended saw deathmatches interrupted by spontaneous rocket-propelled high jumping contests. Later, we made a similar discovery while playing Tribes 2: We noticed how the ragdolls of fallen players coasted downhill along steep slopes. At that LAN, the competition devolved into suicide ski-jumping for at least an hour. We raced downhill to build speed and detonated heavy weapons at our feet to go into "ragdoll mode," giggling like idiots the whole time. Even more recently in a multiplayer deathmatch of Half-Life 2, all hostilities spontaneously ceased as we all grasped the wondrous possibilities of the gravity gun. Thoughts about where to find the best sniper position or the quickest route to the assault rifle spawn vanished from our heads, replaced with one shining thought: Could we get a wrecked car up the stairwell and onto the roof? The answer was a resounding "no," but we managed to get it up two flights of stairs and only crushed four people in the process.

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