Why Can't Comedy Games be Funny to Play?

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Using Portal / Portal 2 as an example, the game doesn't put stress on you or force you to rush at any moment. Because of this, the player is more relaxed and able to enjoy what is happening around them, taking in the comedy and fully enjoying the storyline.

Compare this to an action game where the player is searching for collectibles, trying not to die, trying to shoot the bad guys, hiding behind something - it's all too much. There's too much of a stress on other things, that when a comedic moment does happen it's hidden behind gunfire and other worries that the player will have to deal with.

I'd also mention that it's hard to die in Portal, so you're unlikely to hear the same line more than once from any of the characters. In contrast it's usually fairly easy to die in adventure games if you're not paying attention, and to hear the same line more than once is death to comedic value. This can be linked to the fact that comedic moments usually happen at the start and end of a puzzle in Portal - this means you don't have to stop what you're doing in the middle of a puzzle to listen to the comedy.

Why Can't Comedy Games be Funny to Play?

Yahtzee tells us that the plot might be funny, but the gameplay rarely is.

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Damn, somebody said Portal 2 before I could.

If repetition kills comedy, why are catch phases such as "Listen very carefully, I will say this only once" and "Don't panic, Mr Manwearing!!" Still raising laughs after all these years? I can't answer either, just a thought.

I remember thinking Armed and Dangerous for the Xbox was really funny. With it's dry comedy interspersed with truly imaginative weapons. This is where "LAND SHARK GUN" came from after all. And it was varying degrees of effective against different groups of enemies.

It's been a while though. And it didn't look good or particularly play well even when it was new so I'm sure it's aged horribly in the interim. It'd be difficult to go back and judge it fairly at this point.

Maybe I'll see if I can find a "Let's Play" series or something.

Sandbox and physics are a large open-end for humor. I had a demo of Unreal Tournament 2k4 and we didn't have internet for a while. My roomates and I would take turns in the single demo level devoid of bots leaping into an instakill pit that had bars throughout it. The game we played was to see how spectacular a death we could before the respawn timer kicked in. We even had a Tony Hawk-ish style where we named certain "moves" and attributed a points system to it.
But the unintended consequence was the humor factor. Each death seemed to be funnier than the last. Watching the character bounce from pole to pole, only to hang from one then slide down slowly seemed to be the epitome of humor.
Its little things like that, the unforseen consequences (HL3 confirmed) that make games funny to play.

Well, how about Octodad?

Octodad is absurd and surreal in pretty much every conceivable way - you're an Octopus who pretends to be a human by shoving his tentacles into a suit, which is somehow enough to fool a woman so completely that she agrees to marry you and have two children with you.

The gameplay revolves around "being a normal human", but with appropriately surreal controls. Rather than having a "walk" button and a "pick up item" button, you have the mouse buttons bound to lifting each leg up, moving the mouse causes that leg to flail around, and releasing the mouse button then drops that leg wherever it was hovering. This is the only way to walk.

The challenge is then not spazzing out - if you do too many "suspicious" things, people will realise that you're not actually a human and therefore must be an octopus. Since the controls are so awkward, the game can quite comfortably ask you to do such mundane things as clearing out the fridge and mopping the kitchen floor, and then rely on the awkwardness of the controls and the sheer surreality of an Octopus in a suit flailing around the kitchen to produce some brilliant slapstick comedy completely organically.

The gameplay and challenge mechanics entirely reflect the context and tone of humour.

I am surprised that Psychonauts were not mentioned in the article. I replayed it few weeks ago (thanks steam trading cards for making me start a new game). And the i think that game play and story are exceptionally well combined and almost everything is funny the dialogs, character reacting to the stuff you do and the level design and art is just superb.

Well, there's Conker's Bad Fur Day, but come to think of it, for all I love the game for its humor and wit, I realized later that many of the funniest moments weren't really that fun to actually play, with clunky controls and haphazard level design. At the time, I loved it, but I've actually gotten more fun out of watching Let's Plays of that game.

On the fun side is No More Heroes, with its over-the-top combat, and the sword-fighting is just fun enough to make the repetitive-ness of it amusing (the parking-lot level in NMH2 notwithstanding) until you get to the bosses, each of which has awesome puzzle elements.

I'm thinking now of I Wanna Be The Guy, which has most of its Easter eggs in the form of funny traps and hazards.

Also, as Yahtzee has often mentioned, the Mario RPGs often have fun and funny attacks and stage hazards, particularly the audience interaction in PM:TTYD.

In tempted to say Dead Rising 2 because the story was rubbish, but the gameplay of picking up almost anything reflected how silly everything was. Yeah, you'll always go back to the weapons and combos that actually do stuff, but slinging useless items at zombies is a laugh.

"But I had to ask myself - what kind of gameplay WOULD suit a comedy action game?"

Comedy games are funny to play. Ever played Magicka, Postal, Metal Slug, Dead Rising, or any game with ragdolls?

If "comedy" games can't be funny it's for the same reason "tactical" games can't be tactical, "horror" games can't be horrifying, "stealth" games can be stealthy, "strategy" games can't be strategic: the over-usage of linear scripted content and trying to be movies instead of games.

Messing with pedestrians in a sandbox game is funny, and screwing with guards in Metal Gear Solid is funny.

So maybe the trick is, the player has to feel completely superior to the AI and that means you have to give the player enough control that it feels like it's them whose doing it. A funny kill animation is funny once, because you're effectively watch someone show you a gag. But being able to tap someone on the shoulder, and then teleport behind them as they turn round (ala Dishonoured) is funny for much longer because it feels like you invented that. What you need is the AI to be responsive enough that they can react to you outwitting them and then a flexible control scheme that allows you to taunt mooks with your movement and combat. And then you combine it with more challenging elite mooks who are much more of an actual threat but do have the nice fancy kill animations (but still the opportunity to make them look stupid if you're good)

Magicka might be a good example here. The plot itself is rather silly, but the real comedy gold isn't provided by the throwaway gags in the environment, but by the repeated murder-suicides your spells cause.

Banjo Kazooie fits the bill, in my eyes. Everything about that game was silly and cartoonish in a rather adorable way, and there are lines and situations in that game that really at the very least put a smile on my face. Also, I laughed out loud the first time Mumbo accidentally turned me into a washing machine. And so did my dad, who was playing with me at the time(I was 7 years old).

Super Paper Mario and all the other Mario RPGs I've played also fit the bill fairly well.

Beyond Good and Evil. It takes place on an alien world that is an odd ball collection of things. The architecture looks Mediterranean yet there is a heavy Asian undertone to the world, almost like a light hearted version of Blade Runner. The people are a mix of not just cultures but species. You have a rasta rino, cat people, pig people, humans and you have a huge collection of strange animals that look like there right out of the Dark Crystal. Its this huge mess of different things thrown together without out any real exposition and brought together with a uniform art style.

The game play is similarly varied. You mainly play as Jade who hops around and whacks things with a stick but there are so many other elements of play thrown in. You have stealth sections, Jade can earn cash and upgrades by taking pictures of different species, you can play a kind of air hockey game with a shark....roll that last one around in your head for a moment, you can race, you can explore a small but open world, and you get into space battles.

Even the story keeps throwing things at you. You start out thinking military is trying to protect you from an invasion and that there is a terrorist group trying to sabotage their efforts. Soon it turns out There the bad guys and you end up doing guerrilla journalism style missions with said terrorists to expose the military. Then you end up in space fighting an alien mastermind that is apparently your father and you bring a pig back to life. And there's still another twist after you beat the game.

Beyond Good and Evil is a perfect marriage of gameplay setting and story. Some things are pulled off better than others but they all come together to make something truly amazing...too bad they can't seem to get a second game off the ground.

The Fallout series, while not exactly "Comedy Games" per se, certainly have a lot of humorous elements within. In fact, exploring the world and stumbling across dark bits of comedy in the back-story is a big part of why I love those games so much.

(Confession: I've only played Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I gather there's a lot of comedy value in the earlier titles, as well.)

ETA: And I TOTALLY agree with the above post regarding Beyond Good and Evil!

Ragdoll physics, since day one have never ceased to be a source of constant amusement. Especially if done badly. In the early days of Hitman you could shoot people into other peoples faces. Most humour I get from games tends to be unintentional. Like a Combine trooper spazzing out while pinned to a wall or Max Payne inadvertently chilling out on a sofa after a shootdodge. In GTA 4 The funniest thing to do is a physics glitch that launches you miles across the city. Comedy is about subverting normality and normality in games are the preprogrammed rules. If you break them or make them do crazy things, it's funny. The important thing I believe is the user being agent in the comedy. It's why discovering a donkey can climb a ladder is so funny. You discovered it by playing, it was never the programmers intention.

comedy can be complete left field too and effective when unexpected. fallout 3 had a good example. in one of the many subway tunnels right at the end and very easy to miss is a strange little scene that made me laugh.

picture a little stuffed rabbit tied to a railroad track with a garden gnome statue across from it with a camera next to him.

has no point, has no meaning, its just there to make you go wtf and loose it

Britishfan:
If repetition kills comedy, why are catch phases such as "Listen very carefully, I will say this only once" and "Don't panic, Mr Manwearing!!" Still raising laughs after all these years? I can't answer either, just a thought.

Kevin Smith noted that repetition is part of comedy in the commentary on the Clerks DVD. The scene he noted this on was the scene where an old guy is asking Dante if he can use the bathroom. The guy comes over and asks if he can use the bathroom and then goes away. And then comes back and ask about the toilet paper, which is rough, and convinces Dante to let him take some softer toilet paper from the shelf to use and then goes away. And then comes back and asks if he can have some reading material, namely a porno magazine, to keep himself occupied while he pinches one off.

The repetition here is in action, but the content escalates with each occurrence. This is just part of storytelling in general. Actions escalate the stakes. So the comedy needs to escalate as well. Having Deadpool make the same half dozen quips every takedown doesn't escalate things. Maybe after you hear the same takedown line a few times, one of the other goons says "Why do you keep saying that?" That would be hilarious. Pointing out the limited quippage of video game dialog. Maybe even have that guy escalate. Going from puzzled "Why do you keep saying that?" To worried "You know you're just repeating yourself, right?" To pissed "Say that one more time and I'm gonna murdelize ya!"

Octodad is a new genre I've dubbed "Fail Games." The thing about Fail Games is that they usually have nigh-impossible controls with unfair obstacles between you and a deceptively simple goal. The point of these games is not necessarily to win but to fail in as spectacular a way as possible. If you manage to limp across the finish line, that's only a bonus. Games such as Happy Wheels, Enviro-Bear 2000, Incredipede, and possibly I Wanna Be the Guy fit neatly into this genre.

BrotherRool:
screwing with guards in Metal Gear Solid is funny.

Thinking about it, I do have to agree with this. I often say that one of the most enjoyable parts of the Metal Gear Solid games is just messing around with the AI, because it's so good and yet at the same time so utterly, hilariously dumb.

Ymbirtt:
Octosnip

So someone took that "Sir Bearington" D&D story and made a video game heavily influenced by it?

You know i loved Conkers Bad Fur Day. Its still my favorite game of all time because it played the juxtaposition of comedy and serious grittiness differently. Comedy to me stems from the interaction between the comedy and straight man, the normal thing that emphasizes that whats happening is wacky. In Deadpool, Deadpool himself is the comedy and the game is straight man. So spending the whole game with him is very tiring. Its no longer funny if the comedy is just being thrown at us. We already know its supposed to be goofy, but there is no moment of levity is Dead Pool is always saying one dumb one liner after another.
In Conker and Portal, the player characters are the straight men(or squirrel and woman as it is) to the comedy of the situation/setting. Conker openly makes fun of the goofy characters, plot and setting. And not in a Duke Nukem way; its a little more subtle.
Give you an example; You fight a giant bale a hay as a boss fight and after you defeat him, the floor collapses and you fall several feet into a pit. The boss is on fire and we assume he's gone. But then the oddly terminator-esque music starts. The hay monster jumps out of the fire and its a robot! Now in Duke Nukem and DeadPool, those characters would have dropped a terminator line. "I guess he came back." or "Hasta la vista, baby." Or something equally obvious. In Conker our squirrel comments on the music well before the terminator hay monster returns. "Uhhh...I dont like the sound of that music." In Portal, GLaDOS would have come in over the PA and said "Do you like that music? I wrote it for you. I call it the 'You're about to die' suite. In A-Minor."
See the Duke/Deadpool is the bad joke because its the character himself forcing in the humor in. With Conker or Portal, yes they're telling jokes, but their not the subject of the joke. Conker recognizes the game is trying to b like terminator,not just going along with the terminator bit.
Conker is fully aware he's in a video game, but unlike Dead Pool, he's not too happy about it. Dead Pool just wants to tell jokes and shoot thing; Conker wants to go take a nap, so he's less inclined to go along with the game, and its funny.

Kargathia:
Magicka might be a good example here. The plot itself is rather silly, but the real comedy gold isn't provided by the throwaway gags in the environment, but by the repeated murder-suicides your spells cause.

And in the meantime, those "throwaway gags" don't get stale either, because they're all scripted NPC behaviors and only happen once. Or at least, once per attempt to not wipe.

That's the other thing, which brings me back to Portal and the like: The other approach to keeping humor from being repetitive is to restrict it to one-time scripted events. And while once upon a time, that would have meant only having it show up at the beginning of each level or so, today's games rely far more on scripted events. Just look at Valve. They basically invented the "sightseeing tour" style of game design, where virtually the entire game is just a very long corridor. Basically taking the linearity that made point-and-click adventure games so ripe for humor and applying it to action games. Is it any surprise that Valve is also one of the biggest developers to regularly make use of humor in their games?

Maybe this is the niche that sightseeing tour style games fit into. In theory, with enough talented writers, time to record, and space on the disk for audio data, one could make a game that plays out almost like a Freeman's Mind that you can actually interact with. I could stand to be railroaded for ten hours if it meant being subjected to non-stop comedy.

Lucas Arts back in the golden years was a master of the comedic game, granted they were pretty much all adventure games.

Sam and Max Hit the Road was a classic comedy for me when I bought that game back in the 90's, hell I still own it on the 3.5" floppys not that I can use them.

They might have already been said before, but the crime sandbox games typically provide a fair amount of comedy with their story and gameplay. GTA used to be incredibly wacky, but dialed it back for a more serious tone. But since the player will likely do a variety of insane actions like poor driving, murdering innocents, etc when they're trying to play a serious character in a serious story, that level of dissonance will cause some laughs, though it will throw the story back several steps. This is actually the same issue I have with Sleeping Dogs. I enjoy it, but the dissonance created between the actions I take (some intentional, some not) and the tone the story is trying to represent breaks the gameworld's logic and while it's funny, it's still awkward.

Saints Row is the only one of the three that currently manages to do so well. But I have a horrible feeling Saints Row 4 will jump the shark on this one. Hopefully it'll surprise me, but the absurdity of the story and absurdity of the gameplay in 2 and 3 were to mostly adequate levels to keep the games fun and funny throughout most of the game.

Beyond that, it really depends on taste and what you're looking for.

For example, WarioWare games are funny in the sense it's funny to see people look silly when playing even sillier minigames. Smash Bros can be silly when strategies and shenanigans to win a game go horribly awry or work in unexpected ways. Resident Evil can be funny since the writing is so terrible. Bayonetta had funny moments because they were over-the-top and very cooky. And even Left 4 Dead had moments of humor in just the dialogue from the characters and some of the ideas written on the wall. And when you really think about it, a zombie that throws up on people to summon more zombies is kind of comical in a way. Or the zombie with a really long tongue to grab people. L4D has a level of humor to it that is rather unexpected given that the world has gone to hell. Which is even funnier to think about now that I've kind of realized it. :P

1) Armed And Dangerous: The game managed to combine genuinely funny, well-scripted cutscenes with gameplay mechanics that were just absolutely over-the-top. This is the game where weapons include a Land Shark Gun, a mini Black Hole launcher, and a Topsy-Turvy screw that temporarily reverses gravity.

Graphics looks like shit today, but the writing is still excellent,

2) Conker's Bad Fur Day. Again, this is a game where the comedy is both in the writing and the mechanics. The cutscenes provide some excellent crass humour and some pitch perfect movie parodies, and the gameplay has you using a pair of bricks to castrate a bourgeois, big bollocked boiler (Solid brass. Polished to the Nth degree), or chucking toilet rolls at an opera singing giant poo. The context sensitive commands allowed for the developers to bring really out-there comedic elements directly into the gameplay, which worked wonderfully.

3) The Mario RPG games. The Paper Mario games have had intermittent comedy elements, with The Thousand Year Door being hugely comedy based while Sticker Star is less so. On the other hand, the Mario & Luigi games have been straight up comedy right from the get go, and by all accounts that continues in the latest game. A game where, lest we forget, you manipulate the environment by poking, prodding and outright abusing Luigi's sleeing face. It's slapstick comedy integrated directly as a game mechanic.

I think the best kind of comedy in video games happens when the game itself is trying to be serious. It's one of the unique parts of the gaming genre where you have the ability to completely overturn the tone for a moment of lighthearted fun before going straight back to the grim and gritty. This is possible because no matter how dark the story of a game is, its main purpose is still to entertain the player, and give them the ability to choose their own outcomes. That's why I loved Battlefield Bad Company 2 so much, because even though you'd start a level in a standard spunkgargleweewee gunfight, later on you could sit around and listen to the squad talk about their feelings, almost like a Quentin Tarantino movie. Or, you could skip the fun and keep on shooting people; it was your choice.
In fact, I think games with a lot of organic choices make me laugh more than any comedy movie. That's why I liked the Halo games so much (not 4, but the Bungie ones); there were so many ways to kill enemies, and so many fun things to do that didn't involve killing anyone but yourself, that every level had infinite possible funny moments. But it's the fact that the moments don't have to be funny, the idea that you could choose to play it straight, that makes the moments truly memorable. That's why I think Halo Reach was a funnier game than Portal 2: by the end of the latter, I knew there were jokes delivered at the beginning and end of every level, and while they were funny, I knew they were forced. However, Halo's funny moments happened when I chose to combine the tow hooks of a Warthog with the rear end of a Skirmisher, and therefore the joke was both hilarious, unexpected, and satisfying.

I think Yahtzee might be on to something when he says that the comedy value is tied to how hard it is to get the payoff. Take a game like IWBTG. The game is maddenly difficult, but if you go into it with the right mindset, the game lets you play the Fall Guy in every comedic bit. So when you finally navigate a particularly dangerous room only to get blindsided right before the save-point by something you thought was just in the background, you can't help but laugh at yourself.

Britishfan:
Damn, somebody said Portal 2 before I could.

If repetition kills comedy, why are catch phases such as "Listen very carefully, I will say this only once" and "Don't panic, Mr Manwearing!!" Still raising laughs after all these years? I can't answer either, just a thought.

That someone managed to say Portal 2 before Yahtzee posted the article, somehow 0.o

OT: For me funny gameplay is gameplay where crazy, unpredictable, off the wall stuff happens. This often involves the game itself being absolutely terrible in the classical sense -- one of the (unintentionally) funniest games I've ever played is Bad Rats, which also happens to be mechanically the /worst/ physics puzzler I've ever played.

Deadly Premonition, full stop.

The entire game was a so-horrible-it's-compelling comedy from start to finish.

EDIT: Whoa, this post kind of got away from me. Just skip to the bottom (THE CRUX) if you want the TL DR version.

STORY:
On the story side, you have likeable characters who go from serious discussion of a murder victim to talking about putting cereal and peanut butter into a sandwhich (The Sinner's Sandwhich).

The characters constantly switch from normal human interaction, to completely bizarro behaviors and actions, to reacting to that bizarreness very normally. A perfect example is early on, the conversation with the innkeeper (Polly I think).
Normal: The FBI Agent, Francis York Morgan, wants to find more information about the town, so he sits down to talk with the elderly owner of the hotel he's staying at. He's also hungry and needs food.
Bizarro: They sit on opposite ends of a twelve or twenty-foot long table, having to shout across the table to hear one another. The whistle and kazoo music is playing so loud the PLAYER can barely hear them.
Normal: York calls down to Polly, asking her to scoot closer so he can actually hear her.
Bizarro: Polly says "Oh, why MISTER MORGAN! And so early in the day! I'm much too old for you..." etc.

Most importantly, the characters find a good balance between acting normal and acting quirky: they aren't 100% "quirky" all the time, trying way too hard to stand out. They're written as almost-realistic characters, with almost realistic quirks. The thing is, the portion of their time they DO spend being quirky, their "quirks" are so extreme that it gets big laughs when they do drop their normal facade and reveal the insanity lurking just beneath the surface, and it completely changes how you see them even when they are acting normal.

And then there's the finale of the story: the plot starts out as a seemingly simple serial killer tale, but takes a sudden and MASSIVE change in the last three hours of the game, roaring at supersonic speeds down WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST SEE OMG LOL territory.

GAMEPLAY:
The gameplay compliments this because part of the humor of the game is how you never really know WHAT to feel about Deadly Premonition. You always think you have it figured out, then it surprises you. First the game is ugly graphically, weird, and seemingly poorly made. Then you start to laugh because two squirrels just used a poorly placed monkey sound file. Then you laugh because the characters are legitimately interestingly crazy. Then they start acting normal and you begin to care about them. You almost think they're real people. Then you get reminded they're crazy again, and you laugh, again. One second the story is tragic and serious, the next, a saxophone is blasting out the cheesiest solo ever played.

The gameplay reflects this in that you never know what to expect. The controls are clunky and messy. So that's bad. Then you see a zombie creature, and your interest is kind of piqued. Scary? Generic? Then the zombie makes stretchy glove sounds and bends over backwards, doing a weird limbo at you. Okay: this zombie is officially Goofy. You try to shoot it: controls suck, does this designer even know what he's doing? You get a headshot: York says "Nice! Fantastic! Great!" to himself with every pull of the trigger. His little self-congratulations which sound sooo proud are hilariously out of place with the situation (FBI Agent, investigating a murder, suddenly assaulted by zombie creatures). It charms you.

The game involves a lot of shooting those zombies, and it does get repetitive, but it has many other activities. I mean, you are an FBI AGENT, here to find a SERIAL KILLER, in a TOWN FULL OF ZOMBIES. But why do that when you can do other stuff! You can go fishing. Do sidequests where you help drive a crazy lady to her home before her cooking pot (which she thinks is sentient) gets cold. You can shave your beard and freshen up, and if you don't, you will have a stink cloud and flies following you in every single cutscene, dramatic or otherwise. You can get to know the crazy characters around town. You can collect trading cards. You get around via open-world driving that is juuust bad enough to be goofy, but not impossible.

THE CRUX:
At first it just seems like the game is poorly made, but multiple post-launch interviews with the developer revealed that he knew *exactly* how weird, offbeat, and uncanny his game was, and consciously used it for comedy and to compliment the story as a whole.

The whole time, you're questioning if the game really knows what it's doing. Is X Story Point/Character/Texture/Animation/Mechanic SUPPOSED to be this BAD? Is Y supposed to be this WEIRD? Z seems so normal and functional, what's with X and Y? It's a journey you take from the start of the game to the finish. First you scoff, then you laugh, then you love it. And it wouldn't be the same if any element was subtracted. The gameplay, story, and presentation ALL keep you off balance as they go from Normal to Bizarre to Bad, all three running on different tracks just to keep you even more off balance, and what you get is a game that is nothing BUT hilarious surprises. AND IT KNOWS WHAT IT IS DOING, ALL THE WAY.

Except for the wall-crawler zombies that take like 30 minutes to kill. They are extremely rare in the game, but the two or three segments that contain them are so bad it's NOT funny. Forget them. Lol.

I think Blood had some pretty funny humour, mostly because of all the references it made. The same can be said of The Suffering and The Suffering: Ties That Bind.

shrekfan246:

Ymbirtt:
Octosnip

So someone took that "Sir Bearington" D&D story and made a video game heavily influenced by it?

What, you mean this?
image

Yeah, they basically did, right down to the one guy who manages to see through the disguise and makes everyone else think he's insane. It's also free. Here you go.

The adventure games written by the makers of the homestarrunner cartoons back in the day were actually really good--Peasant's Quest being a King's Quest homage, and the Thy Dungeonman games being nods at text adventures like Zork. Despite being made by cartoonists, not game devs, they had really solid puzzles that were jokes in and of themselves (such as how often you have to solve a puzzle with the command "throw baby" in Peasant's Quest). I know Yahtzee mentioned point-and-click games already, but I figured I'd bring them up--they are free and browser based, so I would highly recommend them!

A lot of gameplay-based humor is player-driven. Portal is a hilarious game, but I've never laughed harder than while sitting on the couch playing Halo or Smash with friends and watching all the ridiculous stuff happen. Team Fortress 2 has a lot of those moments as well. When playing alone, honestly only point-and-click games really come to mind as far as "funny" mechanics go. Using mechanics as a joke seems like a great way to end up with really bad mechanics.

You want a comedy action game that creates an endless string of comical situations through unscripted gameplay? Cel Damage. It's like Loony Tunes meets Twisted Metal. There are a bunch of crazy cartoon characters in silly vehicles running around big stages and killing each other with a wide variety of weapons that cause various ridiculous effects on death. It's kind of like the Serious Sam cannon ball example, except it happens with every weapon in the game, and there are a lot of them.

The land-shark gun from Armed and Dangerous is another comedy weapon that never gets old. All the joke weapons in that game were pretty solid, like the mine that turn the world upside down and drops enemies into the sky, but there's just something about that animation of the shark breaching out of solid ground with a screaming enemy in its mouth that never loses its appeal.

As for one-liners, a game that did something fairly good with this was, shockingly enough, Bloodrayne 2. The one-liners are all funny by virtue of being un-ironically awful, but, in addition to the set of lines the protagonist spouts off during normal combat, she has a set of one-time, scripted conversations with henchmen that occur at various specific points during levels. There are actually a fair number of these exchanges, and they keep the rest of the combat dialog from getting as monotonous as it would otherwise. I can only imagine that a game with actually good writing would be able to get a lot more out of the idea.

Repetition can be funny, but it has to be aware repetition, not simply going over the same thing again. Some of the funniest moments of comedy come of anticipation from a joke being set up to repeat- or not repeat at a moment when it's expected, and highlighting its absence. The character who is deadpan and droll through everything- and proves to continue to be so facing events that could destroy the universe. The character who solves everything through violence suddenly having to do something delicate or requiring social finesse. The "macchupichu!/ouch!" joke in "Curse of Monkey Island". GladOS's ongoing references to cake. And so on.

I feel like there have been some games where the main character started to crack wise about having to do the same segment of the game over and over again, but no instances come immediately to mind.

Similarly, I wouldn't say the heart of comedy is just about crazy characters, but the intersection of the crazy and the sane; predictable craziness using clear, but skewed logic in approaching recognizable situations. Sometimes it's the classic "screwball/straight man" dynamic; sometimes it's crazy characters in a straight world, or the opposite.

In some ways, good comedy is about creating a path that the audience can follow and wants to follow, dropping just enough bread crumbs that they feel clever for picking up the path. I suppose in that regard comedy and game design have something in common.

Conker was a funny game, and it had context-sensitive button presses - i.e. you stand in a certain area and press the same button as always, you end up with a different unique result depending on what's required in that area. So you may be onto something with the whole lack of repetition thing.

Undomesticated Equine:
I am surprised that Psychonauts were not mentioned in the article. I replayed it few weeks ago (thanks steam trading cards for making me start a new game). And the i think that game play and story are exceptionally well combined and almost everything is funny the dialogs, character reacting to the stuff you do and the level design and art is just superb.

I was surprised it wasn't mentioned either since Yahtzee was the one who made me injure myself for not having played it all those years ago. For shame.

Just the lungfish level alone is a great example of comedic gameplay. Stomping around as a giant monster as little fish run screaming and saying laughably silly lines is great even when some of those lines repeat because the visceral joy of cartoonish mass destruction never gets old.

I think another key to finding more comedy in gameplay could come from better understanding of the Skyrim Phenomenon. Some of the funniest gameplay I've ever seen came from that game, although the vast majority of it was unintentional on the part of the designers. Videos of glitches and socially-questionable dragon-shouting could keep me chuckling for hours. Obviously this humorous aspect of the game doesn't mesh with the story elements, but I think there's something to it. While you can't necessarily replicate this sort of gameplay humor intentionally, I think that more designers could experiment with the desire of the player to act against their best interests and against the goal of the game. It's one reason I've always loved the amount of detail in "Metal Gear Solid" games where they account for player transgressions and have in-game responses to them (i.e. killing The End towards the beginning of MGS3).

One game design idea I'm surprised nobody has capitalized on yet (as far as I know) is a game built entirely around people's tendencies to eventually destroy their creations in sim games. A cross between "The Sims", "The Incredible Machine", and "Final Destination" where your goal in each level is to set up the most elaborate and ridiculous death possible for your unsuspecting computer sprites.

Anyway, I feel like there's a lot of inherent humor in gameplay that could be better explored through experimentation.

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