The Inquisitive Blogger 22/31: Why So Serious? - Tim Gruver Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Inquisitive Blogger 22/31: Why So Serious?

Everyone likes a good joke, or at least I do. As long as I've been playing games, it's a wonder why more of them don't invoke countless moments of laughter in comparison to other media. I like to think that I'm a generally serious person in real-life, but when it comes to movies or tv, I often choose comedy over drama. Why is it that more of our video-games don't contribute to the genre of hilarity? 

In short, comedy is usually a paradox of both simplicity and complexity that we all thrive on but can't often present. Dramatic stories have us running over a list of elements to critique: plot, character development, prologues, epilogues, third acts, depth, story-telling, etc, etc. etc. Jokes have only had one purpose in my mind and maybe yours: just make me laugh myself silly. Maybe the most constant grab of comedy is its lack of maturity. A sober sense of responsibility and self-discipline is as necessary in life as our tear-jerking, gritty dramas, but all-work and no play is what kills its value to us. We value it because once and a while, we deserve to let loose with a playful side. 

(Liv'in Every Plumber's Vida Loca One Tall Cold One at a Time

It's a wonder and a shame that more games don't attempt this noble endeavor. When we think back to any year in video-games, this site and most others will recall moments of fear, struggle, and thoughtful even if sobering moral challenges to the player. Those moments are indeed quite valid to a player's experience and I treasure their existence in games, especially in the face of otherwise memories of button-mashing and level-grinding to earn the quickest achievement. Games are still incomplete without the other side of the coin, though. We never hear more about that moment when you collapse in laughter at the mustache-twirling villain on-screen or the subtle, if not well-placed quips from outrageous heroes. Characters and their respective games appeal to us through their reflection of life. They help us understand both the sad and the comical of our world. It makes little sense why they should overwhelmingly make us cry and not laugh when we certainly are able to do both in life.  

There's no doubt in my mind that comedic touches, wherever and whenever they might drop their bombshells of hilarity on us, help to humanize a character and a setting. The Uncharteds and Ratchet and Clanks of gaming would easily go forgotten amongst the slew of other third-person shooters out there if not for the jokes and gags of their protagonists. We wouldn't remember Captain Quark and the Q-Force if they weren't all cheesy, awkward, and with their own batch of exaggerated egos and personalities they are and Nate Drake would have been another strong-man with a gun if not for his witty sarcasm and his relatable bewilderment at the outlandish situations he finds himself in. Even the Last of Us, for all its 99% terror and cynicism, offered us a break from the action with Ellie's "interesting" experience with a few "adult" magazines of Bill's on their long-cross country drive. Any number of Mario's RPGs, from his papery ones to the N64's classic demonstrate how the most childish, sweet-hearted mischief can make us fall in love with silly cartoons on-screen. The Paper Marios are what still convince me to this day of the need for a Bowser game for all the slap-stick comedy that the Koopa King was allowed when he became a lovable, laughable villain. A single joke can make us relate to a person in what empathy we share in how we approach life in a fresh perspective we rarely see. 

(Did You Say Something? We Did not Hear it Over The Awesome in Here)

So what is it that so attracts us to comedy? At its core, it's nothing short of rebellion. The humor we as human beings appreciate most, if not entirely, is the element of the simple jest. A joke is always meant to poke fun at something or perhaps someone, and we thrive on its ability to mock a truth we relate to. We enjoy defending the under-dog and struggling against the villain and its prodding at the over-indulgent ego that tempts us to laugh at the expense of over-the-top Eggmans and wily Team Rockets. Players similarly relate to laughing at our own weaknesses. We take pride in joshing about the screw-ups, the Frank Honeys and the Waluigis of the video-game universes, the Akibas and the Daxters. We love to see their comic failings and successes as they are for us outside of the screen. Even as we suffer through the grating verbal abuse of Glados and Arkham Asylum's Joker, we inwardly crave the naughty delight of their characters. Largely, a part of us wishes we were them. It's that love/hate relationship that keeps us attached to them in that we see that darker side to ourselves, even if we express it through their mediums. 

There's then the question of when comedy falls flat on us, or when does it go too far. Maybe I can't speak for every other reader, but I know from my experience it comes from one specific place. Humor is worst when it passes the boundary of respect to the audience. The best example of this can be found in George Orwell's quote: "The aim of the joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded." It's the case in so many games. Whether it's the Zeke Dunbar sidekicks at your side that simply whine or the Duke Nukems that show-off when there's nothing to impress, the best humor is what they do to appreciate your situation, not insulting your own or others intelligences. I suppose I'm not the chap that digs sexual innuendo or violent humor to its strongest extremes, either in GTA or zombie mow-'em-downers. I, of course, don't tolerate the racial or minority bashing of the on-line rage-players out there. It's unfortunately different for many tastes. I can speak for myself that humor is something uplifting. It reminds us of the truth of our condition and shows us the freedom out of it.   

(There Something Funny on my Face?)

I believe it only reasonable that comedy find its place as a part of the balance in our media. There's a time for the somber, there's a time for laughter. As I might have expressed through oh so many blogs, art is a game of symmetry. Emotional symmetry is the balance by which our games our best told. Humor and grit, comedy and drama, are what make the most well-rounded batch of game I appreciate most. Its implementation is no less than difficult for any develop, but it's more than worthwhile in the end. It's part of a cleverness and ingenuity that I wish of more mediums in our gaming and every culture. Don't you? 

Ya know, I've always ended my blogs with a question mark, but ah, screw it. This blog is about rebellion, so ya know what? I'll let the pic below say it all. Good night and good laughs GIO. 

Up Next on the Inquisitive Blogger: Can You Feel that Music in the Air?

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