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Monodi avatar 7:42 PM on 02.09.2010
I Love it Because it's Stupid



I have a confession to make: I have a very, very sensitive funny bone. I can laugh at almost everything that intends to be funny. I will admit that I like to watch Family Guy as tiring the jokes can get, I feel like I just have to enjoy the things for what they are.

When it is about video games, it happens the same thing. You will have a much better result in selling me your game if you make it about a simple and ridiculous concept rather than a serious story about tragedy and a million of different endings depending on your difficult choices and the widest variety of weapons.

For me video games can have a lot of faces, and can accept them all, but when you go to the basic idea of giving "childish" material, it makes the whole experience even more fun. Let's make a comparison of pulled-out premises between two well known games:


First a personal favorite:

Half-Life 2

Take the role of the former physicist Gordon Freeman to raise and lead the resistance against the Combines who oppress the human race. Make your way through the dangerous lands raided and watched by aliens, and fight the power with advanced weapons and your wit.


Now, a Nintendo64 classic:

Banjo-Kazooie

Help Banjo, the bear, to rescue his little sister from an evil witch who wants to extract all of her beauty. With the help of your feathered friend Kazooie, you can go through the crazy worlds around to find the Jiggies and puzzle pieces to continue on your quest.

See? Stupid!

Now, a concept is not all what matters in a game, you have to give it substance in the interactivity and interface. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure captivated me at first for having a traditional melee battle system, a reintroduction of the Panel de Pon tile puzzles, and a very high difficulty that raises gradually. But when you add the british stereotypes, humorous dialogue, charming character designs and A FREAKING GIANT ROBOT WITH CLASSICAL MUSIC COVERED WITH METAL, well you got a big, fat bonus.

Punch-Out!! stands in my favorite franchises for its simplicity and humor. Just like Henry Hatsworth it is both hard and funny. You have to learn your enemies' absurd attacks and also find the weak spot in their technique. It has the most shameless stereotypes around and... well... it's freaking boxing at the basic concept: beat the crap out of the other guy and survive.




I have witnessed many gamers around to dislike things because they are not serious. When it is about video games, I find that as an odd oxymoron. When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was out, everybody pretended it did not exist for the carttony aspect of Link unlike the BADASS adult version that debuted on Ocarina of Time. As the biggest Zelda fanboy I know, I think they did not change much at all. The Legend of Zelda has always been the story about a boy who got the power to save all of his land, pretty much like the legend of King Arthur. It is not only cute, but also encouraging and inspiring to make games that demonstrate the power of a child, and one person at all. And if I am not wrong, A Link to the Past featured Link as a boy, Ocarina of Time centralized the story on him as a boy (despite the upgrade you get after collecting the three spirital stones), Majora's Mask did the same, and even Twilight Princess features him as a youngster. Not around 10 years old, but still a youngster.

Same thing with Team Fortress 2. Are people seriously claiming the game for being a terrible excuse of a FPS just because of the silly tone in it? I mean, come on! It has blood Don't they like blood? And big guns? Why am I supposed to take the idea of human tragedy caused by war so seriously in a video game? If I really wanted to experience that I would rather watch a movie, or read a book or article... or... play another game like Fallout or... well, that's not my point.

I actually am someone who finds most of Mature-rated games to have a hypocritical subtitle of "maturity". Whenever I see a game about a BADASS MAN WHO HAS BIG GUNS AND CHAINSAWS AND BUCKETS OF BLOOD IN EVERY FRAME, it just feels like something my little cousin would enjoy rather than myself... but I think I just got trapped in a subjective topic on the matter.



Oh but yes, there are games that are not childish, but take the leap of not being serious. Leisure Suit Larry is a classic adventure game about a horny hustler trying to hook-up with every woman he finds and has to do a series of tasks to get their heart as silly they are. On the other side of the coin, Psychonauts is a 3D action/adventure game that looks and feels like a game for kids, but has psychological topics that are, or could be, far beyond the comprehension of a child. (Paranoia, suicide, sex, bipolarity, affairs...) And of course, great humor too.

My point is, why aren't many games taking the liberty of NOT being serious? Is it that hard? I could pull out a concept as silly and effective as Banjo-Kazooie by taking folded papers out of a hat and relate them in a single topic. And that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Sometimes stupid means genius.

PS: On a slightly unrelated note, this is the best thing I have seen today.

 
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