Jul 27, 2017 Last Updated 9:32 PM, Jul 25, 2017

What makes a game a good joke?

Published in Editorial
Read 2293 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Compared to other forms of entertainment, gaming is still in its infancy, and the industry as a whole still has many issues to figure out. One has been on my mind especially, for quite some time now:

What makes a game a good joke? Let me explain.

Let’s look at the recent flood of releases in the vein of Surgeon Simulator and Goat Simulator. On one hand, comedy is nothing new in gaming. On the other, that design certainly is. The trend has been going on for a few years now, and I must say, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it.

Why? Because their existence is part of the very joke they're telling. The premise is the setup and playing it is the punchline. How do you properly analyze jokes? Do you still analyze the design elements? Do you treat it like a gag? Where do you draw the line for what is worth looking into and what is meant to be a farce?

Humoristic game development is changing.

Gags existed in the past, but they weren’t noteworthy to the extent they are today. Increased access to development tools and online distribution made comedians jump on the indie gaming train wagon. Similar to how YouTube Poop arose, after YouTube made their process easier, silly games became a reality after Valve lowered the bar to its program Steam Greenlight. YouTube, for that matter, also takes credit for this ongoing trend. YouTubers have and continue to make popular videos, that come and support these humoristic indie developers. By entertaining through games, videos generate further interest among gamers.

Whether or not one will enjoy these somewhat unconventional and casual gaming experiences really comes down to a common denominator: personality.

I personally don’t believe art is objective, and by the same token, comedy is subjective. People will react differently, based on their culture and life experiences. My personal experience has been as follows.

Goat Simulator I simply didn’t get.

he concept definitely had comic potential, but it felt to aimless for my taste. It’s a sandbox game - not a particularly interesting one for that matter - in which you can interact with props in goofy ways and try to be as crazy as you can. I didn’t get it, yet a quick glance at the stats on Steam Charts showed me that others most certainly did. Perhaps I value quality in game design, and that is a necessary requisite to me even if the for games who try to make me laugh.

Then is Surgeon Simulator.

here I find continuous value, perhaps because of the constant update in content that the developers have added since release, and I would enjoy revisiting it even after it left the spotlight. The game has so many possibilities for fun gameplay. The control system is innovative, and it allows for different personalities to approach it each in their own way. The goal is an engaging and focused one, and there is so much possibility for things to happen that the humor embedded into its mechanics can come out in many shapes. Unlike Goat Simulator, each play through is unique, and that makes for great comedy even in simple commentaries.

Last but not least is Jazzpunk

Clearly inspired by titles developed by Blendo Games (Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving), most of it revolves around completing short missions and encountering gags and jokes along the way. If you want an example of a gag that you only play once, this is probably one of the best out there. Not all of the jokes worked on me, but there is something to be said for art design and how a game’s style can support its comical aspect.  Sadly, it’s $15, and you’ll beat it in two hours without rushing.  On a side note, I highly recommend VideoGameDunky’s video that not only covers the game’s strongest moments, but also adds to its value with unique commentaries that will make playing the game less engrossing than watching it played.

In sum, power to the YouTubers.

Yes, comedy is a matter of taste. Some find Goat Simulator charming and hilarious, and some just won’t get it. Mediocrity in all facets other than the gag itself can push some back while others won’t care. I belong in the first group, as I often find myself frustrated with all the low-effort simulators that keep popping up left and right on Greenlight. Yet sometimes, I’ll admit, it’s great to kick back and not take things seriously, as we often do when awaiting the next AAA release. Isn’t that, after all, the power of indie?

Latest from Daniel Wood

Related items

  • Just In Time Incorporated Review

    Just in Time Incorporated is Just Okay. It’s a great concept, but the execution is lacking. As it stands, the puzzle solutions felt too stilted and left you craving more challenge, however, the brief title is still more enjoyable than not, with humor that consistently delivers. Though fairly polished, and with mechanics that plain work, we get the impression that there's a great game in Just in Time – just not this time.

  • Blood Bowl 2 Set for September Release

    Blood Bowl 2, the sequel to the video game adaptation of Games Workshop's classic tabletop game combining American football with the Warhammer fantasy world, will expand in September with Blood Bowl 2: Legendary Edition. Screenshots of the new races and the new stadium coming with the Legendary Edition came with the news that pre-orders are available starting today.

  • BadLand Games Publishing Announced

    Spanish video game distributor and publisher BadLand Games, announces today the foundation of BadLand Games Publishing. With the opening of the new BadLand Games Research Poland office in Warsaw and a modern corporate identity, the company's publishing operations can officially expand on working in collaboration with more highly talented and innovative developer studios.

  • Baobabs Mausoleum Ep.1 Ovnifagos Don't Eat Flamingos Review

    Seemingly an anomaly on the Steam store, Baobabs Mausoleum Ep. 1 Ovnifagos Don’t Eat Flamingos is a weird but worthwhile play.  It presents a unique and twisted world and a story with a considerable extent of both human imagination and sanity.  Each puzzle and problem is different and engaging, providing an innovative experience.  As the first installment in the series, we have hopeful anticipation for a successor, to see how the developers will continue to polish what they have here.

  • Hello Neighbor: Pre-Purchase Ready with Alpha Access

    Hello Neighbor is a Stealth Horror game where you sneak into your creepy neighbor's house to figure out what he's hiding in his basement. You play against an advanced self-learning AI that counters your every move.

  • BIG Festival 2017 Reveals International Competition Winners

    The award ceremony of the 5th edition of BIG Festival, Latin America’s largest independent games event, took place on the night of June 29th, in the Adoniran Barbosa auditorium, in São Paulo Capital city, Brazil. General public, special guests and game developers crowded the audience, anticipating the final results that would announce the winners of the 13 categories in the competition, including Best Game, Best Brazilian Game and People’s Choice. And the cooperative cooking game Overcooked, by Phil Duncan’s Ghost Town Games, took home the most coveted trophy of the night: the Best Game of BIG Festival 2017.

  • Devolver Presents The Swords of Ditto Gameplay Video

    On the Island of Ditto, players will get to experience a “micro RPG” of sorts, with players exploring a delightful but dangerous overworld and braving menacing dungeons to overcome the evil that plagues of the island.

  • The Inner World - The Last Wind Monk

    The flute nose dynasty has been watching over Asposia for centuries on end. In secret, they fill the roly-poly world with light and life. Emil, a trader for odds and ends, has led all the Asposians astray, making them believe that the dynasty is in cahoots with dark forces.

Latest Shows

Dawn of Andromed…

Dawn of Andromeda is a pausable, real-time 4X space strategy game providing an accessible, fun and immersive experience, introducing fresh ideas to the genre. Build your empire, co...

MyWorld Early Ac…

MyWorld – THE Action RPG Maker! Unleash your imagination with MyWorld and create, share and play amazing 3D adventures with our growing community. Claim glory and treasure as you c...

Just In Time Inc…

Just in Time Incorporated is Just Okay. It’s a great concept, but the execution is lacking. As it stands, the puzzle solutions felt too stilted and left you craving more challenge...

Vostok Inc. Revi…

Vostok Inc. is as addictive as any other incremental game – in fact, it’s one of the better incremental games to come out; it has a lot more polish and character, along with humor...

Fable Fortune Ea…

Fable Fortune breaks free of closed beta and into the free-to-play wild on July 25, 2017. Should you feed it or shoot it? Is it good or evil? Most importantly, can you kick chicken...

Yonder: The Clou…

For an open-world, immersive experience replete with quests, fishing, farms, and more, look no further than Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. The design is apt to please any ga...