Imagine a world of parody, surprise and hilarity. Video games have always done entertainment well, but they’ve never pulled off comedy. It’s time someone does, and when they do, the MMO is the perfect way to pull it off.
I want a word that is unafraid to mock me. I want a world that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Not simply a few jokes here and there, but an entire world built around the concept of geek humor.
There is definitely enough of it out there. From Rick Astley to Jon Lajoie, there are thousands of jokes associated with geek culture ready to be referenced. What’s more, the very concept of an MMO could both simultaneously be exploited (funny isn’t an excuse for making a half assed game) and mocked.
With comedy comes liberty. What wouldn’t work in a regular game is open season in a game that is totally hell bent on amusing players.
Cities in most MMOs are boring places. Buy stuff, talk to a buddy, visit the auction house and see your frame rate drop. That’s the city experience of every MMO.
They’re there because real worlds have cities, thus our pixilated ones must too.
In a comedy MMO, new doors are opened. Grand Theft Four Horse Carriage, anyone? I’d love to see high speed cart jacking for all to enjoy as people run amuck in the downtown of a medieval city. We know the dynamic of Grand Theft Auto style chaos is fun, especially in limited bursts. So the mechanics work, but no serious MMO could ever try it. In a world of comedy, it would be fair game.
The key is to set the tone. The first quest would of course ask the player to kill 10 rats. With a shiny new sword, they’d set out to kill the rats and report back for a reward. Most MMOs give them three silver and tell them to kill 20 rats.
In a comedy MMO? NPCs pour out of the buildings, surrounding the player in an online mosh pit. Suddenly, from a nearby medieval house comes some familiar notes and a digital Rick Astly. You’ve just been RickRoll’d.
The key is to make sure that the game is fun for the players, not the designers. I’d personally love to see a zone that automatically fried anyone who tried to talk in l33t speak or text message short-hand with a bolt of lightning or a grand piano from the sky.
However, after the third typo related death, I’d probably as a player not enjoy it quite so much.
The truth is, part of what this genre needs is more variety. This is one of those ideas that while tough to execute, could be a lot of fun. So long as the developer doesn’t get carried away with the setting and forget to develop an actual MMO, the core mechanics need not be all that entirely different.
A few games have made some attempts at this. The text based The Kingdom of Loathing is a great example, but the visuals would open so many more options. Other funny games tend to be aimed at kids.
Humor, or at least not always taking yourself seriously, is one of the most underappreciated aspects of World of WarCraft as well. Occasionally, Blizzard is known for letting their guard down and having fun at their own expense. It’s great when it happens, but all too rare.
The tough part of this is to make a game that has the depth to keep people playing. Jokes are usually only funny once, which is why I am not suggesting a highly directed, story-driven comedy game. This would instead be a gag driven virtual world, but always done with an eye on opening up new gameplay elements, as well as a few cheap chuckles.
And for those who would consider funding such an exercise in absurdity? Think of the product placement alone! If you're unsure how that's funny, please go talk to Liz Lemon.
In my opinion, Grand Theft Horse Carriage would be a lot of fun, even after seeing people wildly flogging their carriage team as they crash into pedestrians and fire a ballista off the back ceased to be funny and became normal.
It’s time for video games to take the next step and actually be funny. MMOs are the perfect outlet to give it a try. Who knows, it might be fun. And that is, after all, the point, isn’t it?