Humor can be one the of the hardest things to pull off in any medium of entertainment. It might also be one of the most rewarding for both the audience and the creator.
And if game designers find it hard to combine narrative and gameplay then combining humor and gameplay is even more difficult.
The Secret of Monkey Island is pretty famous for being fun, creative, and, of course, funny. Along with standard forms of visual or verbal humor, one of the things that Monkey Island does well is make sure that the gameplay itself is funny. There’s a few different moments where this happens, but there’s one particular example that exemplifies the idea of interweaving the humor and the gameplay so that gameplay and humor are the same thing. Playing the game is actually funny, not just reading a conversation or seeing something silly on the screen.
Riven (the sequel to Myst) has a game design philosophy in which the gameplay and narrative are the same thing. So, I decided to look at one clever example of this.
Waxing about Myst:
Myst was a great game and perhaps one of the first “art” games (I could probably write a whole blog post about this alone). “Walking simulators” like the Stanley Parable, Dear Esther, and Gone Home owe their existence to Myst paving the path over a decade earlier. Its artistry has been overlooked by most people because at the time of release (1993) no one gave a damn about games as an art form. And then Doom came out and the only thing people cared about were those types of games.
One of the consequences of Myst being passed off as a novelty of its time is that its sequel, Riven, never got the intellectual and academic scrutiny it deserved.
A friend of mine, let’s call him “Justin”, suggested I play a game, let’s call it Penumbra: Overture.
I decided to play the game and damn well enjoy it. Its requirements exceeded the might of my computer, but I didn’t worry about this because that would be like worrying about the physical quality of ink and paper meeting the requirements of William Faulkner’s prose.
For the sake of posterity:
Penumbra Minimum Requirements:
- Processor: 2.0Ghz
- Memory: 1024MB
- Video Card: Radeon 9600
My six year old Apple iBook G4:
- Processor: 1.2 GHz
- Memory: 256 MB
- Video Card: Mobility Radeon 9200