I was talking today with a contact at THQ about what the Writers Cabal can conjure up for its clients. With delight, he said, “Oh, you can do comedy projects, too!” This reaction got me thinking about whether distinctions between comedy and drama are neccessary or even desireable when creating a memorable game. Tone and genre can have an impact on everything from game design to animation.
In television, shows often find themselves pigeonholed into either comedy or drama, and never the twain shall meet. The necessities of timeslots, marketing, and, let’s face it, tradition place most shows into either category. Except, of course, shows such as UGLY BETTY, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, and GILMORE GIRLS. These “dramedies,” coincidentally targeted at a female audience, often have both sitcom and hourlong writers staffing it. However, the idea that you only find comedy in sitcoms misses the mark. Les Moonves, CEO of Viacom and former head of CBS, purportedly said “You can never have too much comedy in a drama.” You often hear in shows from LAW & ORDER to HEROES comic asides that help to lighten the sometimes heavy load of drama.
Games, naturally, don’t have the same restrictions as does television, except in marketing. Yet 10, 50, or 200 hours of gameplay make it even more important to follow Les’ advice. Unrelenting drama is, well, unrelenting. Even Shakespeare (even?) knew to put comic relief in his dramas. Games have the opportunity to play with genre in a way television can’t, and need only adhere to a genre or tone enough to satisfy the audience and the marketing department.
Now before all you developers yawn and say “That’s just for writers,” in reality, the comedy can be conveyed in as many ways as you have departments. Who can forget the final scene of Doom, a hard-core action shooter, where the peaceful little bunny is now impaled on a stick? If that’s not comedy… How about in Hexen, after the same stripe of Doom, which allowed you to turn your opponents into chickens and watch them cluck around.
The comedy in games that might otherwise be a straight drama turn a game that is fun into a game that is memorable. Don’t forget the comic relief!
I mentioned the first two funny (to me) moments I could think of. It occurs to me I might occasionally have a sick sense of humor. What are some great comic moments that you remember in an otherwise dramatic game?