Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Michael Angus Plays It For Laughs

Imagine watching a movie of yourself playing a favourite video game for an hour or so. What emotions would you see? For me, the range would usually include frustration, pride at a game well played, more frustration, maybe the odd bit of joy, and finally all out rage. No of course that wasn't my fault. The game is badly designed. Yes I am going to keep playing it. No I don't want to just leave it alone for a bit. Shut up.

The point I’m rambling, incoherently, towards is that I can't remember the last time a game really made me laugh. I'm not talking about MarioKart with 3 of your mates here, because the actual game content isn't what tickles the old humerus there. As we all know, it's all about launching a blue shell and waiting for the inevitably furious reaction on the faces of your former friends. 

Mario Kart Wii with Wii Wheel
Playing games with mates can be hilarious, but the humour isn't woven into the game world as such.

Nope, what I'm hankering for is a game which makes me laugh on its own grounds, with jokes, word play and other whimsical whatnots. Unfortunately, ever since the death of LucasArts' classic point and clickers, the only games that I can remember really enjoying playing through for the comedic value are as follows: A) Conker's Bad Fur Day, in which you play a squirrel pissing on things. B) The radio stations in Grand Theft Auto 2. I'm not even sure I can put GTA 2 into the list, because the in game content itself wasn't funny; even with a slightly twisted sense of humour, running people over only lasts so long. I love a bit of ironic advertising banter as much as the next person but what I'm really looking for is a game which puts me in a situation which is inherently amusing, as well as tricky and rewarding to play. 

Conker's Bad Fur Day
You won't be able to reach the end of Rare's cult classic without mastering the lost art of pissing as a squirrel

Maybe this would bother me less if I was a bit younger, and I could just accept that games are the world of shooty death, noble paladin's and brightly coloured nintendoites. Unfortunately, as a youngerling I cut my PC based gaming teeth on classics like Monkey Island 1-3, Sam and Max in its various guises, the Douglas Adams project Starship Titanic, Grim Fandango and the Discworld point and clickers. So what went wrong? Is it just that with the inevitable death of the point and clicker, no other genre lends itself as well to a humour based narrative?

Grim Fandango
LucasArts' adventure games set the benchmark for sense of intentional comedy in gaming in their heyday.

I'm not so sure. The Mortal Kombat series, while being a truly shocking beat'em up, at least invented the “Friendality” and “Babyality” as a tongue in cheek response to shock stories about it being too violent. Dungeon Keeper's possess chicken ability, casual imp based violance and occasional off the wall comments (“your lair has been re-carpeted”) made it stand out in an overpacked RTS genre. And Wolfenstein 3D, the first proper FPS ever really, had Hitler in a giant Robot suit as the end bad guy. Hitler in a Robot suit! Name one video game that wouldn't be improved by that as a final boss, and I will doff my hat to you.

WarioWare: Smooth Moves
Surreal, wacked out and sometimes plain distrurbing, WarioWare refuses to take itself seriously. Ever.

The only game I've constantly been amused by in the last ten years is WarioWare and I'm not even sure that's supposed to be funny. I don't know what it's supposed to be. I don't think anyone does. Outside this oddity I would propose that in the 21st Century, comedy gaming is well and truly dead, until someone gets rounds to making M*A*S*H the game. If you have any better suggestions, I'd love to hear it because, honestly, I think there are only so many times I can play through the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy text adventure in one lifetime.