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You must be having a laugh!

August 16, 2012

Humour in gaming probably raises the most questions of any play style. I am, of course, referring to comedy games, not the jokes and bad puns that can derail the tensest moments of an adventure. A majority of gamers seem to have a predisposition to trying a comedy game (perhaps due to the sense of humour behind those derailing jokes), but few seem able to make it work, especially as a campaign.

From personal experience, I think the explanation is that, too often, the humour is forced. It’s like watching a badly-written comedy series where the script writers had clearly run out of ideas and are desperately trying to amuse us – and failing. Rather than wall-to-wall zaniness, except perhaps for cathartic one-off games, we should perhaps draw our inspiration from well-written comedies and realise that the best keep the comedy subordinate to the story. Even if the story is, itself, innately silly, the comedy is not allowed to overwhelm it. The plot proceeds, characters develop, there will often be some serious moments, and the comedy is largely restricted to key moments where it can explode with full force, rather than an attempt to maintain a set level of silliness all the way through. Rather than making the story more amusing, attempting to keep it funny all the time, especially with a single brand of comedy, dilutes the humour. Mixing the types of humour and allowing for some lows between the comedic highs makes the whole much more sustainable. Why not give it a try?

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