Videogames have been making us laugh for as long as we can remember. Yet often it’s by accident rather than design; a result of the player’s involvement spoiling the designer’s intent. “You can have this totally serious, heart-wrenching cutscene and the next moment, the player will ruin the mood by falling into a pit or something,” Spelunky creator Derek Yu says. “That’s why I actually think it’s way harder to make a serious game than a comedic game.” Indeed, a game’s seriousness can make it all the more amusing when it falls apart: if you’ve spent any time on the Internet lately, you’ll surely have seen the Ghost Of Tsushima clip where protagonist Jin leaps into enemy territory and his body is repeatedly struck by arrows mid-jump, each hit keeping him airborne. For a better example of a developer clearly understanding the comedic potential of its game, how about the succession of 30-second videos from Breath Of The Wild that spread across social media, where players found ever more inventively brutal ways of dispatching members of the Yiga Clan? This kind of systemic comedy has become much more prevalent in recent years. And with more games actively using scripted humour as a selling point, it feels as if we’re not far away from a new golden age of videogame comedy.

You need to go back to the early 1990s to find a time when some of the most popular games of the day prided themselves on their sense of humour.

To understand why games are probably funnier now than they’ve ever been, it’s worth looking back at when narrative-led games were designed with comedy in mind, and why – by and large – that stopped being the case. You need to go back to the early 1990s and the heyday of LucasArts to find a time when some of the most popular games of the day prided themselves on their sense of humour. Dan Marshall, creator of recent , suggests it wasn’t just good writing that made the likes of and funny, but the inherently farcical nature of their structure. “Like, if I can pick up this item but I can’t pick up that item, the immediate way out of it is with a funny line of dialogue. In other point-and-click games, you get these very practical, dry and even , had this throughline of silliness.”

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