One of my acting professors in college had this saying “One rubber chicken funny, one thousand rubber chickens, one thousand times funny!” He used to say it with an Eastern European accent, which I never quite understood, but the point he was making was this: Just because something is funny doesn’t mean more of that thing will still be funny.
This was rammed home to me recently as I played … well, that’s not important. The important thing is that it was a funny game, or at least was designed to be. It had a cute premise, a fun lead character and some clever writing. But it was also pretty tough, meaning that I was hearing a lot of that writing many, many times. There were plenty of occasions where I initially laughed at gags, only to curse them through gritted teeth as they were repeated at me mockingly for the 1,000th time. Some were high-quality rubber chickens, but they quickly lost their luster as identical ones piled up.
In what genre would you say comedy has been the most effective? Right, adventure games. I’ve always assumed that game from the people creating them (and it certainly does) but what if their structure is just as much to thank? Think about it, when you’re playing an adventure game there’s typically no risk of death or failure, meaning there’s practically no reason you should have to hear any joke twice.
I don’t care how good a comedy writer is, half the power of a joke comes in the not knowing it. If written humor is ever going to be effective in games with frequent death/failure scenarios, your characters can’t repeat gags. They just can’t.
Now, the only question is where you’ll find enough metaphorical rubber for all those chickens, which is … either money or talent, I don’t know, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the metaphor.