How systemic games make you a master comedian

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The power fantasy of exploring new worlds or meeting strange alien races (and then shooting at both of those things) is the kind of thing that big-budget games tend to focus on. As far as humour is concerned, they’re at best ‘plus comedy’ experiences that deliver on their key points but also have some funny quips along the way. You’re never asked to participate in the humour, and if the jokes don’t land then there’s little you as the player can do about it. So why not equip the player with the systems to write their own jokes and tell their own stories? And how do you foster humour creation in games that don’t already have a pun-based name for every item? I spoke to the developers of four such games to find out how they utilise this approach in order to enable players to create their own fun.

One thing that became evident through the interviews was that each and every system available to the player has to be airtight if they are to get the most out of the experience. A poorly-implemented system can cause you to lose investment in the same way that a poorly delivered punchline might. Each developer wanted to encourage experimentation through their game’s systems in their own way. But which comes first; the design of the systems or the desire to create humour? (more…)

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