HUMOUR: Shadow of Insomniac – The power of funny in games

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Fresh off the slate of finishing Ratchet and Clank Future A Crack in Time, I stopped and thought just how much I found myself laughing throughout that game, so I figured, hey why don’t I write about humour in games. Man, that Miles guy is like, the most unfunny person I know, SO WHY THE HELL IS THIS SOUR OLD GIT WRITING ABOUT HUMOUR?! Because I’m interested, alright? Now let’s get this show on the road.

It’s pretty fair to say that most games these days make some attempt at writing, and through this they generally try to make a connection to the player through various literary devices. The verb was try. But try as they may, sometimes they just get it right and manage to create fantastic emotional links with the player, provoking all sorts of reactions. But after all of these efforts, it seems like they are neglecting an element that is deeply rooted in human behaviour, this seldom explored element is humour.

Ratchet and Clank games have always taken on humorous undertones, and in doing this they have always created a unique atmosphere that separates the game from being just another generic sci-fi shooter/platformer/transmuter, to something with actual character and charm. I think part of the reason why Ratchet and Clank, especially the latest instalment succeeds so greatly with humour is because it has built up a repertoire of likeable and quirky characters paired with fantastic voice acting that is able to deliver these absurd, bold, yet always witty remarks. However, characters alone will not make a game funny, especially if they are projected onto an unfitting backdrop, which is why I suspect that so many fans felt Gladiator broke canon. Although regardless of this experiment, this is something that Insomniac have otherwise, always managed to achieve; creating a great balance between writing, and its coherency with the world that surrounds it.
Captain Copernicus Leslie Qwark
I think it’s a problem that humour is generally ignored, or poorly implemented in games which is a shame, because it can really add another strata of character that often clarifies the somewhat blurry link that is genuine characterisation in a game. This link is necessary for character heavy games since creating plausible characters, regardless of their appearance, is what will deliver when it comes to orchestrating emotional sequences that are going to effectively reach the player. In these sequences the game urges you to make an emotional connection with the character, and depending on whether this character has been crafted as somebody you could associate with or not is going to be the difference between a success and a failure, something that Ratchet and Clank has always succeeded at, and only continues to grow.

This got me thinking about just how many games or series’ have had me laughing out loud at their antics, and I’m struggling to even fill up one hand’s worth of fingers. Sure some games have had their oddities, and quirks over the time, but not since Curse of Monkey Island has a game entertained me in a way that was not only appealing, but greatly assisted in creating a more personal connection with a game. This is not to say that this decline in humorous games is damaging any standards in the industry, if anything a small reserve of excellent delivery will outweigh a spread of poor comedic delivery. Not all games will be suited to the wily charms of Ratchet and Clank, but there are a lot of potentially great games that have squandered all of their potential and succumbed to being just lame.

Miles Newton – The Machination, creative director

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One Response to “HUMOUR: Shadow of Insomniac – The power of funny in games”

  1. Sparticus Says:

    Well, it depends on what type of humour you enjoy I guess. While I haven’t played that particular Ratchet and Clank one yet (on my list), there are many games which I feel are quite humorous.

    But as I said, it depends on your sense of humour. For example, I recently played Ages of Empires, just for old times sakes. I found that hilarious, simply due to the old style of play that was required, yet many would find this dull, almost boring. But, if you count laughing at old games because of that factor, then I can list a fair number of such games.

    Another game which I laughed at was Medieval Total War 2, particularly after I managed to get a secretly Female Scottish Priest promoted to Cardinal.

    Otherwise, I find massively overpowered weaponry or units hilarious, as long as it looks impressive. Whether it be managing to land on a small furry creature with the Mako in Mass effect, Rocket wars in Halo, masses upon masses of explosives in most FPS games, or even holding back the rest of your army in order for your (insert OP unit here) to kill that lonely last unit.

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