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Putting the Humour Back into Video Games

We have all seen the videos on YouTube, whenever glitches produce hilarious yet unintended moments in big-budget video games. These are usually the result of design or programming oversites, missed when games were tested or when players attempt doing things that developers never predicted.

But what about intended humour? After all, elements of levity by design are something that can make video games even more entertaining, lightening the mood and giving us reasons to smile. There are numerous ways of doing this, even in the midst of games based around serious themes.

Comedy as a genre in gaming

Within the concept of video gaming being a form of escapism, numerous genres have evolved over the years. Puzzle and strategy games test our capacity for critical thinking, while shooters and action games challenge our hand-eye coordination. Sports games allow us to fantasise about being part of our favourite teams, while role-playing and adventure games take us to fantasy realms of the imagination.

These tend to be the amongst the most popular genres in video gaming, accompanied by growing variety of sub-genres which focus on specific elements of those core themes. However, despite comedy being widely considered as an important genre in movies and TV shows, it has never truly been considered uniquely so in the video games industry.

 

Back when modest British publisher Psygnosis released their Discworld game in 1995, it was immediately pigeonholed within the adventure genre. While there was certainly adventure involved, the core of this game was entirely focused on comedy, due to the fact it was based around the witty fantasy book series penned by Terry Pratchett. Packed with funny characters and humorously mirroring real-world human issues, they were international bestsellers.

Just to nail home the comedic value of the Discworld video game, it featured Iric Idle of Monty Python fame voicing Rincewind, the fumbling wizard and main protagonist. His adventures featured puzzles, action, and adventure, yet this fabulously funny game never appeared on store shelves as comedy, simply because the genre itself didn’t exist insofar as the gaming industry was concerned.

The rarity of games designed around humour

Discworld was neither the first nor the last game to be themed around humour. That mantle arguably goes to the Leisure Suit Larry series in the early 1980’s, which took smutty inuendo and vulgar humour to a whole new level, even so far as to be banned in many locations around the world. That was no laughing matter for many publishers with many refusing to promote the game, fearful of any controversy associated with sexual humour.

Nevertheless, one studio launched in 1979 took a chance and up until they were dissolved in 2008, the iconic Leisure Suit Larry series became the most popular game releases for Sierra Entertainment. Their boldness also inspired a host of other comedy-centric titles, including many point-and-click adventures released through the 1990’s by LucasArts.

Aside from the developer behind a slew of early Star Wars games, the Monkey Island series packed with brilliant comedic writing and outrageously funny characters, making it one of the most fondly remembered comedy games of all time. Indeed, anyone who played these games will always ponder how much they influenced the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

LucusArts also cashed in on the success of Monkey Island with other notable releases, such as Day of the Tentacle or Sam and Max Hit the Road, all filled with sharp humour poking fun at anything and everything. They poked fun at every gaming genre with great success, even if they were a rarity that still didn’t earn comedy recognition as a gaming genre in its own right.

Adding laughter within something serious

Wagering on anything is a serious business. You just need to look at the deadpan face of a casino pit boss to know that’s true, always vigilant and with little time to smile, as they carefully monitor everything that happens on the gaming floor. Their job relies on great focus, making sure everyone plays by the rules while money and chips change hands.

Over the last couple of decades with the rise of digital communications and mobile technology, the majority of traditional casino games have transitioned online, with slots proving to be amongst the most popular amongst players. According to Vegasslotsonline, one of the most successful developers of online slots are Pragmatic Play, who have released casino games covering practically every genre.

Although “Gaming Done Seriously” is the development motto for Pragmatic slots, due to being licensed with reputable gaming bodies and thoroughly tested for fairness, their key focus as a publisher is making sure gamers are always kept entertained. For this reason, they have also earned a reputation for adding plenty of humour into their games.

Good examples are the amusing animations and sound effects featured in Witches Cauldron or Chilli Heat, which are a hallmark of the humour featured in slot games released by Pragmatic Play, aimed at bringing smiles to our faces as we watch the spinning reels. After all, the word pragmatic itself is defined as meaning practical and down-to-earth, so there’s practically no better way to entertain and amuse than via comedy.

There will always be demand for comedy games

Considering that comedy provides us with such a rich source of entertainment, it’s quite remarkable that more games aren’t released with humour as the central theme. Insofar as being an individual genre, comedy may still be considered quite niche, although with more developers increasingly willing to stretch the limits of each genre, at least we have plenty of comedic elements within games to keep us laughing.

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