Monday, April 30, 2012

Humor in games

As I write this, I'm still uncertain as what I'm talking about, so this may ramble.

I like video games that can handle heavy issues, but by that same token, I also like games that can make me laugh. Like, genuinely laugh with good writing and situations.

I think Eastern RPGs are better at this than the American made ones.

I get the feeling that a lot of North American based RPGs go for this overt, heavy-handedness that is fine and all, but when the game feels like it's always weighting down on you, you need a reprieve. And this is where the pacing of the game comes into play.

I'm going to reference some games below, so I'm going to try to avoid major spoilers, but I promise nothing.

You have been warned.

We're going to start off with an easy example. The Opera Scene from Final Fantasy VI. The setup, one of your main characters (Celes) is going to portray the role of the Opera's lead actress Maria. She does this, because they need to coerce the pilot of one of the only airships in the world to help them. The ruse works because Setzer, the rogue, is in love with Maria and is going to kidnap her during this performance.

Now, amidst all this, the main goal of the party is to get to a floating continent and stop the madness of the Emperor and Kefka. Hence the need for the airship. Pretty urgent stuff right?

Well even with all this chaos going on, the game manages to be funny. Back at the opera house, Celes is trying to act out the main role in the Opera. At times, the game will prompt the user for input on the lines. If you read the script beforehand, you should be able to pick out the proper lines. If you're feeling a little curious, you get some amusing dialogue that's pretty dissonant to the theme of the show. Even funnier is what happens if you purposfully botch the dialogue roughly 3 times. You get a game over. Seriously. That's hilarious to me. You have to reload your game... because you can't remember lines properly.

The in game reasoning is because you blew your cover, but whatever, that's boring.

Persona 3

The entire premise of this game is that the world is going to end in one year, and you're the only one who knows this. Throughout the school year, you partake in normal school behavior during the day, and basically demon slaying at night. This naturally leads itself to some interesting changes from the urgency of the Shadows, to the humors of a standard high school life. You're entire party could be brooding for a week due to circumstances, but them it's a trip to Kyoto as a class trip! And here is where the boys get caught in the hotsprings spying on the girls. The changes aren't too extreme, but they're natural enough to make you appreciate how the game shifts.

To give a quick counterpoint, Bethesda games like Fallout and Oblivion, (core game only) have yet to really make me chuckle or laugh at what's going on. Yes, I get it, the world is huge, but it seems to be lacking something. The random happenings that make things funny. Things like seeing a person trip up the stairs would be a nice touch. What about having events tied to specific days of the year? I know Oblivion kept track of time, it could've had a festival of some sort that wasn't story driven.

I know JRPGs get a lot of crap for being linear and pre-planned, but sometimes the writing makes the game world feel so much more alive than a huge open world game.

I'm going to cite a Western game that gets humor right though. Portal. The game is legitimately funny. The writing is great, and it has this nice contrast to the core game.

Contrast I think is one part of gaming that can be overlooked by developers sometimes. The furthest some games go into humor is a quick quip or one liner, but not scenarios where humor can naturally occur.

I know I've rambled a bit here, but writing this made me realize that I appreciate a game that can blend humor in with foreboding. It makes for a nice break in the sense of dread, and can sometimes help spur me on.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard that the fallout 4 cryolator is an extremely funny quest and I think the game itself is like that! However, I haven't played it yet so cannot say a lot from my personal experience...