Videogames are serious business.

Quick, name one thing in common with most high profile games being released these days. Here, let me help you:

Man, everybody is looking way too serious.

Comedy, where’s the comedy? Not in these games for sure, not to mention that this is something not exclusive to the current generation. Videogames seem to avoid comedy in one way or another, the output of comedy-oriented games and “serious” games is way out of proportion. Think about all the comedies that come to cinemas every weekend, to tv every new season, books and music devote plenty of time in making people laugh too. Yet videogames, an activity related to, you know, having fun, seems to step away from this area as much as possible. Why is that?

Well, making people laugh is no easy task, that’s for sure. Cultural differences can also play a vital rol in what things can make a certain audience laugh, not to mention that certain types of comedy could be offensive to some people, offensive enough to make them rally against the source of said offense. All those things into consideration, i can see why many game companies might have some reserves when trying to inject some humour into a situation. On the other hand, the nature of videogames orbits around the absurd, the realms of fantasy, the “everything is possible” approach. Making games shy away from being irreverent just doesn’t seem right at all.

Actually, i’m not being 100% accurate with those images i used there, take the Yakuza franchise for example,  games that, while tackling the shady side of japanese culture (crime syndicates and everything related to them) takes the time to throw a good mixture of humour in several missions, and even in the gameplay itself. This is after all a game where, in the case of Yakuza 3, the main character can learn new moves by watching the extravagant antics of several people on the streets. The hostess missions, the heat actions and several other moments bring a lot of color to the whole thing. The Final Fantasy games used to have a lighter nature to themselves, before turning into soapy melodramas. Neverless, these franchises, and specially God of War and Final Fantasy, are the last things you would think when trying to come up with games you would consider big on the laugh department.

This could be a universal thing, when something is not taken itself “seriously” in it’s presentation people tend to dismiss the whole package, this is quite unfair considering how comedy has been used to reflect about our society, about several issues in our world. The videogame media seems to disagree with this, and it’s quite common to see a game getting a bad review for “not taking itself seriously” for playing it for “laughs” and for being just too “campy”, which seems to be the word these days for “any type of humor i don’t get”.

I can think of two clear examples of getting the “serious business” boot, Bayonetta and God Hand, specially for the later. Here we have two games so willing to poke fun of all the cliches that populate over-saturated macho/geek power trips of invincible warriors fighting dozens of enemies, and the vg press just doesn’t like it. Both got the “camp” label, like a prisoner getting it’s number code printed on their skin. Sure, some oddball games might get a free ticket from time to time, Viewtful Joe didn’t got a lot of heat back in it’s day, not that i remember. But the rule prevails, and game fully devoted to it’s comedy is bound to get bad looks from many, to be dismissed in the shelves. These days when Capcom gives the world a turkish oil wrestling in Super Street Fighter IV (a real style of fighting, go look it in wikipedia) some fans complaint that they didn’t got another guy in a karate gi.

Videogames aiming for a more serious approach are perfectly fine too, if it wasn’t for the fact that very few games actually manag to have decent enough writting, and it’s hard to take them seriously as a work of hard-hitting narrative, or anything in that vein. Not to mention that many times a game so focused in being taked seriously could produce the exact opossite result, just take a look at many games with early use of voice actors, cutscenes and even real life performers working their magic on the screen. The results speak for themselves, and these days nobody is discussing the “gritty horror” that Night Trap evoked on them, people remember more the jill sandwiches, the miserable little piles of secrets and the likes.

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