I’ll start with a very important distinction for the ~90% of you (we’re all guilty) who only read the headline and, at a push, the first paragraph - we’re talking funny here, not fun. The games which had you giggling like a baby at their one-liners, roaring in laughter at their broken physics, and making you cry in the best of ways at their relentlessly hilarious writing.
Comedy is a tricky craft, no matter which way you slice and dice it. Most fledgling stand-up comedians crash and burn faster than you can say ‘punching down’. Attempting comedy in a game though, one in which player agency is key? A nearly unworkable goal. Comedy’s all about the timing, and when the players themselves are in control of that timing, delivering great humour can be a potential nightmare.
There’s all sorts of ways games go about it though, including humourous writing, wacky one-liners, visual gags, references, memes, or satire. The easy route is to wrench control away from the player, resorting to videos for tried and trusted comedy methods. Most games that try to be funny really sort of… aren’t though. It’s been blowing up this week with Borderlands 3, a game and a franchise which can divide opinion like few others.
The sticky fingers of Randy Pitchford are all over Borderlands’ trademark in-your-face humour, right on down to a ‘healgasm’ shield which asks if players would like to see a ‘magic trick’. It’s called Overflowing Moxxi’s Embrace, calling to mind Pitchford’s passion for squirting girls. Yes, that’s the level we’re dealing with here.
I can’t talk though, I loved South Park: The Stick of Truth. My god is that some puerile shite but I’d be kidding if I said I didn’t laugh from start to finish, over one bleary eyed weekend. There’s a lot more going on under the hood with South Park though. While the show can hit or miss these days, when the right balance is struck it’s finely-tuned satire that’s not afraid to dig deep into a few issues. It’s a show, and a game, which doesn’t pull its punches, which is where Borderlands ends up falling flat on its face. Borderlands is marketed as this 18-rated edge-fest and yet falls back on bleeped out swear words and terrible poo gags. It’s an 18-rated game as written by a bunch of 12-year-olds whose idea of a big night out is a Slush Puppie down at the ball pool.
But I digress, as millions upon millions are clearly loving it, and all things Borderlands. Comedy is about as subjective as it gets. I’ve seen people howling with laughter at Big Bang Theory, proving there really is something for everyone.
Enough blabbering though, it’s time to share the laughter. What are some of the funniest games you’ve ever played? And can great comedy carry a bad game? Let us know what’s tickling your ribs below!