This classic GameCola article was originally published in June 2009.
The views of Mid-Boss do not necessarily coincide with those of the GameCola staff.
Sorry, folks—you’ve been scammed. Mid-Boss has done some investigating and discovered that there’s no such thing as “videogame humour” after all. As your monocle falls into your wine glass, propelled by a shocked exhale and a “well, I never,” Mid-Boss will do his best to explain. And Mid-Boss’ best is devastatingly effective.
Deriving humour from videogames is a torturous exercise—invariably, the funniest instances are the ones that result from the subversion of gaming rules and norms, which implies that games themselves aren’t actually funny at all. Not laugh out loud funny, anyway. Of course, singling out piss-poor game mechanics and clichés (such as the system present in The Simpsons Game) is grin-worthy, but demonstrating them by including them in the gameplay sort of defeats the purpose of the mockery. The same goes for the PS2 version of A Bard’s Tale. Sure, calling one of the areas “Generic Lava Level” is pretty funny; however, actually making it a generic lava level is tiresome. You can’t justify bad design by pointing it out and pretending it’s a gag.
There are a handful of videogames that are routinely described as “funny,” but—and this is just between you and Mid-Boss—they’re not. Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Day of the Tentacle: fantastic games all, but they’re not funny, just quirky. Annoyingly so, in places.
You see, people will routinely point out gags (example: the three-headed monkey gag from the aforementioned Monkey Island series) as if they were so funny, they could be used as military weapons (Mid-Boss approves of tenuous Monty Python references). The thing is, nngh, they’re not. If that sort of humour appeared on, say, a TV show, it’d be criticised to buggery. The way Mid-Boss sees it, the inherent seriousness of games results in undue applause from idiots every time a so-called “funny” game emerges. For Christ’s sake, one British genre magazine even described Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude as “genuinely funny,” in an almost apologetic manner. Still, Mid-Boss can (almost) sympathise. When your career involves playing Splinter Cell for hours on end, Leisure Suit Larry’s tiresome misogynistic antics probably seem like the funniest thing in the world. Anything to get away from Sam fucking Fisher and his dreary, two-colour (green and black, if you’re asking) existence.
On the flip side, Mid-Boss has frequently been in fits of laughter over games—notably, not due to their deliberate attempts at humour, which are all worthless. It’s the experiences with friends that lead to mirth, such as with Dashin’ Desperados, an obscure—and brilliant—sidescroller, with quite possibly the best multiplayer on the Genesis. The sheer frustration of being tripped up by your opponent, followed by the elation of squashing them flat by somersaulting over them to take the lead, can be chokingly funny. Similarly, Mid-Boss spent over an hour in absolute hysterics on one of the beach courses of Micro Machines V3, as constant respawns ramming each other off the sandcastle got more and more ridiculous. It was like that classic Simpsons moment when Sideshow Bob stepped on all the rakes: funny at first, then annoying, then funny again. We just could not get up that sandcastle (or indeed make any progress), as one or the other of us would either fall off the edge, or ram the other player over. It became even funnier when we noticed that if you honk the horn while your car plummets, it makes an amusing “death” noise.
In conclusion, games are never knowingly funny—and if you ever told anyone that Psychonauts is, you’re a liar and you’re going to hell.
Mid-Boss is never knowingly wrong. Or unknowingly wrong, for that matter.
Until next time, Sodies–
I am Green. Seven Force!