Quirky humour makes the difference with Browser Games

  • Added:
    Jun 20, 2013
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NES game collection
NES game collection
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In recent years business consultants have found a growing market for courses to encourage people to laugh, as there are apparently real health benefits in laughing aloud. With the huge range of free browser games now available on computers, tablets and even phones, there is no need to pay vast sums of money for the privilege of having a good guffaw, or a quiet chuckle.

Many of the best online games, whatever the genre – action, strategy, fantasy, casual or MMORPG – include subtle and quirky humour which frequently raises a smile. This can take many forms, such as:

• Using references to popular films or books, such as super heroes;
• Playing on words in conversations between characters;
• Creating cute animals or creatures for farms or zoos in games like Farmerama or Zoomumba;
• Super-imposing traits such as pathetic tears or love for an ugly fantasy beast in monster characters that are otherwise fearsome creatures;
• Including music that is similar to a piece which is instantly recognisable, such as the pirate sequences in the “Ratchett and Clank” games, where the music is very reminiscent of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film theme;
• Putting exaggerated expressions on the faces of characters in reaction to different situations;
• Having one character being a bit of a clown, or the butt of pointed comments or jokes from others;
• Introducing a particular sequence or reaction from a character when the player is successful with a manoeuvre, or moves to a higher level in the game.

Even the most intense action game can be lifted by a touch of humour of one of the types listed, or something different. This dramatic effect is also used in films, where the tension from constant, nail-biting anticipation can be eased by a more human interaction, such as some of the scenes with Gimli, the dwarf, in the highly successful films of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. This interplay between characters is evident in some of the best video games. The wisecracking lead character of the Drake’s Fortune series, for instance, or the relationship between Ratchet and Clank, or their arch nemesis, Doctor Nefarious and his long suffering butler, Lawrence.

Obviously, different types of browser games are aimed at different audiences and age ranges and this has to be taken into account by games developers. Humour is also a very individual thing. Some games may set out to be overtly comic and fail miserably, whilst other succeed beyond all expectations. For example, the seminal 1980’s space trading game, Elite, made knowing nods in the direction of other sci-fi culture, such as Douglas Adams novel, “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, early episodes of Star Trek and even 2001 – A Space Odyssey. This wry approach was clearly calculated to resonate with the game’s target audience and added to its appeal.

Music, too can be used to great comic effect, whether as a deliberate parody of other forms of modern entertainment or to underscore the on-screen action.

Although computer gamers have an undeserved reputation as a fairly po-faced and serious bunch, the use of humour in the games world adds greatly to the attraction of game play. It need not always be laugh-out-loud funny but a little wry wit can make the difference between a good game and a memorable classic.

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