A Serious Discussion About Comedy in Video Games

I was lucky enough to grow up a gamer during the NES era. I say lucky not just because, as a child, the NES was this mythical monolith of unlimited entertainment potential, but because I’ve been lucky to see video games evolve from the big bang moment that was Nintendo’s first console. In that time, what’s impressed me most evolution-wise isn’t the technological advancements the industry has enjoyed, but the artistic ones.

Writing quality would probably be the biggest improvement. Recently, I started playing “The Witcher 2,” and I’m finding it to be a watershed moment in video game storytelling. Sure, some of the dialog is groan-worthy, but the overall tale, and the brilliant way in which the game weaves it, is simply astounding. While it may be a beacon of writing quality in games, it’s far from the only port in the harbor. Games like “Braid,” “Bioshock,” and “Heavy Rain,” to name a few, have all gone far and beyond to prove that at their best, the stories of video games can bring out all of the same emotions as the stories in books, films and theater.

Except for humor.

Of course, I’ve laughed while playing games before, but it’s rarely been because of a specific joke made. Instead, by their general nature, video games are just light-hearted entertainment sources. Hell, the mascot of the entire industry might just be an underdeveloped Italian plumber with a hatred of reptiles, incredible jumping abilities, and a hard-on for elitist blondes. So for an artform that isn’t supposed to take itself too serious by its very nature, why is good, pure comedy so hard to come by?

Let me backtrack a little bit from that statement. I know that funny video games exist. I also know that comedy is perhaps the most subjective form of entertainment there is. What makes one person’s sides split causes another’s lips to droop. But still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t works of comedy in other mediums that are generally considered to be undisputed comedy classics. Like “Caddyshack” or “Ghostbusters” or “This is Spinal Tap.” What is gaming’s equivalent? Well, type “funniest video games of all time into Google” and the consensus answer would seem to be “Conker’s Bad Fur Day.” I’ve covered Conker before, but just as a refresher, “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” is simply the raunchiest, most parody-filled, brute force comedy video game ever made.

And it’s not that funny. Well, I mean it is, but at best it’s a decent episode of “South Park,” without any of the clever context. “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” was a machine gun of jokes that figured if it fired enough rounds, one of them would hit just about everyone that played it. Even worse, it aimed that gun square at the stereotype that gamers are only 14 year old virgins, and made its name from it. And yet, to this day when people reference it, they use the words “Adult Humor.”

The King of Video Game Comedy?

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Monkey Island Chapter Three Arrives September 29th

Lair of the Leviathan.If you haven’t yet finished Chapter 2 of The Tales of Monkey Island you should probably get going on that. The third installment arrives September 29th and will be called The Lair of the Leviathan. Lots of piratey goodness in that title.

The release date is only for the PC version of the game. As with The Siege of Spinner Cay, you’ll be waiting on the 360/Wii releases just a little longer.

Along with the expansion of the new game, you can find Guybrush Threepwood’s original adventure, The Secret of Monkey Island on sale from Steam and Direct2Drive this weekend for $5. The sale coincide with Talk Like A Pirate Day, September 19th. The sale will run until the 21st, so you’ve got a few days to decide whether you can part with honest Abe.


Telltale Wants To Get Serious

Telltale CEO Dan Connors.As VG247 has it, Telltale games is looking to announce some more serious games this October. They’ve made a name for themselves with extremely popular and often hilarious comedy adventure games like Sam & Max and, of course, The Tales Of Monkey Island.

“I think there’ll be some combination of things. I think we’ll be sticking with some of the franchises we’ve worked with, and we’ll be announcing some new franchises, probably in some new genres as well, not just comedy.” That’s from Dan Connors, Telltale’s CEO. Connors also cited TV shows like Lost, The Sopranos, and True Blood, saying that the psychological connection and drama was something viewers really enjoyed – something he thinks gamers would like as well.

Whatever their next project, I can’t wait to hear more. Monkey Island has long been a favorite of mine, and I love what Telltale does. Hopefully they’ll keep up the good work.


Get More Monkey Island For Wii On Monday

Tales of Monkey IslandMonday marks the release of Chapter 2 in the revamped Tales of Monkey Island series, The Siege of Spinner Cay. This next installment continues the often hilarious adventures of Guybrush Threepwood and his search for love and acceptance.

The game has been out for PC for several weeks now, which is still a shorter release gap than with Chapter 1. As with the original, Chapter 2 will run you 1,000 Wii Points. For some strange reason, Telltale is also encouraging you to consider buying an SD card from Amazon. It’s a strange plug to see in a press release but hey, who doesn’t love a little ad money.

Just so we’re clear, the 31st is an American release date only. As the press release mentions, the European version is imminent but as of yet undated.


Tales Of Monkey Island Continues August 20th

The Siege of Spinner Cay.Telltale has put a date on the successor to their new Tales of Monkey Island game. The next episode in the series, called The Siege of Spinner Cay will be available on August 20th for PC. There’s still no word on the WiiWare release date.

After eight years of waiting we finally have consistent updates to one of my favorite game franchises of all time. I have to say, I’m really liking the episodic release schedule, too. It gives me enough time to finish my current chapter of the game without too much pressure to blow through the whole thing. A few weeks later they release a new episode of the same game, making a smooth transition along the game’s storyline.

Though they didn’t give specific details, Telltale did say the WiiWare release will be close the PC date. No need to fret, Wii-fans. You’ll get yours soon enough.


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