Witty and Loving it: How to Inject Humor into Video Games!

Posted by Joanie Rich on April 24, 2013 in Editorial -- Share:

I fondly remember playing the PC adventure games of the nineties. What they lacked in visuals they made up for in spades with their amazing writing, whose characters made me laugh. The Secret of Monkey Island used clever puns to sword fight, and Torin’s Passage had one area designed like a 50’s sitcom, complete with a laugh track! It should be no surprise that today I enjoy working on games that prominently feature humor as well.

A favorite project I worked on recently was Mystic Legacy: The Great Ring. One of the great things the developer, Foxy Games, did with their story concept was take a clichéd character: a vampire, and then gave it a new twist. Count Drago wasn’t just a vampire, but a vampire who drank synthetic blood! The person who we were certain was the villain during the intro cut scene turned into our ally instead! As a narrative designer, it’s always a pleasure when I’m able to tune into the developer’s intentions and create something that is not only funny but fits the world they’ve created.

Torin's Passage

As I played through the game to get a feel for the game world, I discovered one such idea. The player made a snarky remark about refusing to wear Drago’s cloak because it would make a lame Halloween costume. When I laughed out loud, I instantly knew I had found the perfect voice for the protagonist. I took the creative seed that Foxy Games had planted and I spread it throughout the player’s dialogue, black bar text, and journal. Suddenly, the story had come alive! Count Drago and Mark’s personalities were affected as well, just from reacting to the protagonist’s grumpy attitude.

Here are two of my favorite lines:

After collecting the box of termites:
“Surely this vampire has some priceless wooden furniture they could chew on.”

After using the box of termites to destroy a huge tree blocking the way:
“Note to self: don’t mess with Transylvanian termites.”

I also discovered a unique mechanic that we don’t see very often in Hidden-Object Games. Foxy Games included a variable which contained the player’s chosen username. I used that variable to have the characters talk directly to the player. If the game had featured voice-overs, this would not have been possible, since we can’t compensate for every name the player could create. However, because there were no voice-overs, this added a new layer of interactivity. Players now felt immersed in the story when Mark said their name: “Joanie! Man, am I glad to see you!” Even I got a little giddy when I tried it out.

For a writer, there is no greater pleasure than hearing that someone enjoyed what you wrote. For me, reading the happy player comments in the forum totally made my day.

What games have made you laugh out loud?

Written by

Joanie Rich is a narrative designer at Big Fish. She works closely with developers and producers to create fun and engaging game stories. Joanie loves arcades, her kitties, RPGs, and classic point-and-click adventures.