They say laughter is the best medicine – and in some cases it’s enough to revive even the most dire of games. Humour in gaming is nothing new, in fact it’s been a staple of games designers for decades but I’d argue that it’s now being used to much better effect.
Whether you’re an advocate of great graphics, excellent sound effects or compelling storylines, it’s undeniably the fun factor that really makes games go down the annals of history.
From the early days of the SCUMM-based graphic adventure – such as Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit The Road and The Secret of Monkey Island – to the obtuse humour of Leisure Suit Larry or cutesy comedy of today’s multitude of LEGO-branded titles, it’s a truly great moment when a game catches you off guard and you laugh out loud.
As opposed to the “comedy” featured in games like the deplorable Matt Hazard, a well placed joke can really add to the whole experience. Even the slightly sober topic of war can have its moments… Call of Duty 4, for example, got in on the act – albeit briefly on the Mile High Club level – by borrowing the “surely you can’t be serious”oneliner from the classic Airplane movie. Not the funniest joke in the world but it did catch me unawares and made me chortle.
There have been some really, really funny games over the years – Monkey Island: LeChuck’s Revenge, Simon the Sorcerer and Earthworm Jim spring to mind, as do the more recent offerings of Fable II, Ghostbusters and Saints Row 2 (with its nut shots achievement and singing along to the radio among many memorable moments). Overlord 2 is worthy or a few chuckles too… Ordering those in your charge to club a seal to death – although not particularly politically correct – is very funny! Not played it myself but friends suggest Naughty Dog’s Unchartered 2 deserves a mention too…
And what about Spy vs Spy, Cannon Fodder (notably its soundtrack), Theme Hospital, The Movies or Dead Rising? I used to love Ghouls n’ Ghosts too – and always raised a smile when my knight collided with an enemy and shed his armour to reveal his blushes and boxer shorts.
Of course, it’s all very subjective. Me, personally? I really like the way modern games subtly blend humour into a storyline; it’s far less in your face than in the old days. Although I used to have a laugh while playing the likes of Dizzy, Skool Daze, Pyjamarama or Leisure Suit Larry all those years ago, I think developers have really upped their efforts with the dialogue and scripted scenes we see today.
Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Grand Theft Auto series, which made great strides with humour. From driving over people (again, not very politically correct) in the original 1997 game to the radio broadcasts, TV shows and guest appearances by comedians RickyGervais and Frankie Boyle, that feature in its fourth incarnation…
It’s a funny old game. Anyone got any other favourites?